• Sat. Feb 4th, 2023

In front, from left, are Winton Hill Academy students Serenity Mills, Aliyana O’Neal, Nakiyah Ray and Janyia New. In back, from left, are Sophia Hanson, National Youth Foundation co-founder; Nikki Maxwell, “Dork Diaries” illustrator; Rachel Renee Russell, “Dork Diaries” author; Julie Dellecave, Winton Hills Academy fourth-grade teacher; Jamee Joppy, NYF co-founder; and Carolyn Crawford, NYF co-founder. Photo provided

By Dan Yount

The Cincinnati Herald

Four young students at Winton Hills Academy in Cincinnati recently traveled to Philadelphia to receive their first place awards in a national book writing competition for their book honoring Civil Rights icon Marian Spencer, 98, of Cincinnati. This is the second book for which students at the school have won a national award, and these Cincinnati Public Schools girls are only nine and ten years old. This group of students not only wrote and illustrated the book, but interviewed Mrs. Spencer at her residence at Twin Towers Senior Living Community.

The 20-page book, titled “Marian Spencer: A Light in the Darkness,” which chronicles Spencer’s life and accomplishments as a fighter for social justice in the Cincinnati area, was written by Serenity Mills, Janyia New, Aliyana O’Neal and Nakiyah Ray.

“We’re so proud of these girls, and we know what they’re capable of,” Julie Dellecave, the girls’ fourth-grade teacher. “They are learning that working hard at something and really doing their best pays off in life. And I think that’s really an example to all of our students here.”

“I expect them to do well in everything, especially in school,” Spencer said of the girls when they visited her in December to present her with the book. “Our future is in them.”

“They are amazing students, and this was a great outlet for them to show the talent they have,’’ said Shelby Zimmer, resource coordinator at the school. “Also, Julie Dellecave is an amazing teacher, providing encouragement and direction.’’

In accepting the award at the National Youth Foundation Second Annual Girls Rally in Philadelphia, the girls said they would rather see Marian Spencer than Beyoncé, because Mrs. Spencer has been such an inspiration to them, and they wanted to be just like her, Zimmer said.

The students chose to write their book about Spencer after Joe Wilmers, a retired Winton Hills Academy social worker, told them about her and all her accomplishments

Each of the girls received a $125 cash prize, which they said they plan to save.