From The Tribune
July 24, 2003

Pearls of wisdom:
Newton resident wins Daniel Pearl essay contest

By Melissa Beecher


Newton North graduate Julia Carney, 17, winner of the Spirit of Daniel Pearl Youth Writing Contest. (Photo by Lisa Cassidy)

WALTHAM — As Julia Carney sat eating lunch alongside women at a homeless shelter, she began to realize intolerance takes many forms.


As she sat in the church basement on Newbury Street, the 17-year-old saw what she called society’s subtle disrespect to the women living in the shelter. The Newton teen used that as the topic for an essay that she submitted to the “Spirit of Daniel Pearl Youth Writing Contest.”


Yesterday, Carney was honored as the grand prize winner in the contest at Boston’s Old South Meeting House. Hers was one of 500 entries in the nationwide contest.


“I am honored to be given this award,” said Carney. “I really connect with what Daniel Pearl strove to do: create a dialogue between two groups that might not connect.”


Carney recently graduated from Newton North High School and plans to attend Trinity College in Hartford in the fall. She said a mentor, Alex Jones, a Harvard professor, former New York Times reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner, told her that she should enter the contest.


The editor-in-chief of Newton North High School’s paper, “The Newtonite,” Carney said that she is drawn to journalism, specifically to stories like Pearl’s that attempted to engage readers.


“I enjoy the fast pace of the business. Being up against deadlines and communicating with people was what drew me to journalism,” said Carney.


The writing contest was established by the Daniel Pearl Foundation and YouthNOISE, a Web site that promotes teen advocacy. It was developed in memory of Pearl, a writer for the Wall Street Journal who was kidnapped on Jan. 23, 2002, and murdered by militant extremists in Pakistan. The kidnapping came within days of the U.S. attacks of Afghanistan to oust the Taliban regime.


The contest asked teenagers to respond to the question, “How has Danny’s story or some personal experience with intolerance or cultural hatred affected you?”


“It’s not enough to preach about respect for others. For these lessons to have worth, students need to go into the larger community and put what is taught into practice,” Carney’s essay reads. “Furthermore, they need to be able to recognize and respond to the more subtle forms of disrespect that we show toward people.”


Carney wrote about the needs for students and society to pursue tolerance.


She won a Sony Vaio laptop computer. Three other students received cash awards. Maoz Brown, 18, of Kendall Park, N.J., the first runner-up received $400. Erika Layman, 17, from San Luis Obispo, Calif., and Carrie Hollis, 13, from Hollis, N.H., tied for second runner-up and received $200.


In a statement released by the foundation, Tamara Pearl, sister of Daniel Pearl and a judge of the contest, said that the essays were a way to keep her brother’s memory alive.


“These young people are making a difference in their communities and each one is helping to eradicate the ignorance and hatred that took Danny’s life,” Pearl said. “It is critical that we listen to young people who offer creative solutions to the hate they see around them and encourage them to write.”


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