ALAMEDA -- As part of Alameda's fifth annual Harvey Milk Day celebrations, several students and a teacher have been recognized for sharing their talents with the Island community.

In addition, the Alameda Free Library has a new collection of books with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender themes and characters.

"All the submissions to this year's poster, poetry and scholarship contests were incredible, and we hope to have many, many more submissions and winners in future years," said Olivia Higgins, an educational consultant and member of the Alameda school district's LGBT Roundtable, at Saturday's award ceremony. "The winners and other participants are making a difference, and these efforts are making sure our schools celebrate all our students."

The honor of a $500 scholarship went to Emma Finn, a senior at Encinal High, who has been active in the school's Gay-Straight Alliance and is headed to UCLA in the fall.

"I look forward to remaining active and involved" in these issues in college, Finn said at Saturday's awards event, which also recognized two poster winners: Selma Malkic, a fifth-grader at Otis Elementary, and Olga Cojulan, a junior at Encinal High School. Both students received a $100 prize. Copies of Cojulan's poster, the grand prize winner, were shared with those at the gathering.

This year's poetry winners included Anneli Arneson, an eighth-grader at the Academy of Alameda, along with 11th-graders Ani Phelps and Daniel McCormick, of Encinal High. These three students also were awarded $100 each.


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"It's great to celebrate our young people, who are truly the leaders of today," Higgins said. "When we all work together, it's amazing what we can do for the community."

Teacher Alyson Bingham, of Paden Elementary School, received special recognition for the participation of her 28 fourth- and fifth-grade students, all of whom entered the poster contest. The class will be treated to a pizza party for their achievement.

"My class read a book on Harvey Milk that was provided by the school district. We made posters, talked about the need to appreciate diversity and also worked on a family-heritage project," Bingham said.

Milk, a gay-rights activist and member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, was assassinated in 1978. In 2009, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger established Harvey Milk Day as a statewide day of remembrance.

"These efforts are about bringing awareness about diversity issues and equality to the community and educating the community about such issues," said Henry Villareal, an Alameda resident and member of the city's Social Service Human Relations Board.

"We are so pleased that we had double the number of participants in these contests this year compared to last year," said Gene Kahane, an event organizer and English teacher at Encinal High School. "And it's the first year that we've found sponsors for the scholarship and teacher prize, so, including the book donations, a total of $2,000 is being shared with the community."

To boost use of its expanded book collection, the Alameda Free Library is hosting its monthly LGBT literary discussion at 3 p.m. Sunday. The next book group meeting is July 13.

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