Young Reporters Honored
Remarkable True Stories of a Sudanese Lost Boy and a 1940s Female Pro Baseball Player Named Winners of Weekly Reader’s National “Eyewitness to History” Contest

Fifth grader from Roselle, Illinois, and seventh grader from Jacksonville, Florida, Recognized in Prestigious Annual Interview Competition

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., May 6, 2011—Weekly Reader, a leading publisher of digital and print periodicals for schools and other groundbreaking educational materials, has announced the 2011 winners of its annual “Eyewitness to History” contest. The winning entries depicted the amazing survival of a Lost Boy of Sudan as he made his escape from his war-torn country, and the determination and spirit of a female baseball player who entertained fans during World War II.

“There’s no better way to learn about history than by speaking to someone who was actually there,” says Clara Colbert, senior managing editor at Weekly Reader. “One of our goals is to make sure that history comes alive for kids and is not just something they read about in textbooks.”

Entrants from elementary and middle schools around the country were required to interview someone who witnessed a historical event first-hand, such as by fighting on the frontlines during a war, or by attending a speech from a well-known leader. The winners received $200 each, and their interviews were published in Weekly Reader’s publications, which are read by more than a million students nationwide.

Maria Cieslarczyk, a fifth grader from Waterbury Elementary School in Roselle, Illinois, was the winner in the elementary category for her fascinating interview with Fran Russmann, who played women’s minor league baseball during World War II. Maria met Fran through a teacher at her school. Maria says she learned a lot from hearing Fran’s story. “It doesn’t matter whether you’re a guy or a girl, whether you have dark skin or light skin, whether you’re young or old,” Maria wrote. “All that matters is that if you want to do something, then go for it! … And you might just make history.”

Katie Hecht, a seventh grader at Lavilla School of the Arts in Jacksonville, Florida, won in the middle-school category. Katie met some of the Lost Boys of Sudan through her mom, Joan, who established the Alliance for the Lost Boys in 2004 to assist with their health and educational needs. Through her mom’s work, Katie has grown up with the Lost Boys and considers them to be her brothers. When Katie heard about the Eyewitness to History contest, she was excited for the opportunity to share Lost Boy John Kuai’s story with the rest of the world. Approximately 22 years ago, when John was 8 years old, his father was killed in the second Sudanese civil war, and he lost contact with the rest of his family. On his own, John made the long, dangerous trek out of Sudan to find safety. Katie was touched by John’s story. “No matter what your circumstances are, you can always find a way to make a difference,” Katie wrote. “John is a prime example of this, coming from an unimaginable situation, but persevering until his dream came true, coming to America and getting a college degree. Now he’s giving back and working toward a career to help his people. I think that’s honorable, as well as inspirational.”

Maria Cieslarczyk’s winning essay appears in Issue 23 of WR News (Edition 4–6) (April 22, 2011). Katie Hecht’s winning entry is featured in Issue 24 of Current Events (May 9, 2011). Their complete interviews, along with those from the runners-up, are also featured online at


Elementary School
Winner: Maria Cieslarczyk, Waterbury Elementary School, Roselle, Illinois
Emma Pittman, Trinity Presbyterian School, Montgomery, Alabama
Beatrice Levy, St. Joseph Elementary School, Alameda, California
Honorable Mentions:
Jessica J. Colver, Mellen Elementary School, Mellen, Wisconsin
Alexandra Hearn, St. Joseph Elementary School, Alameda, California

Middle School
Winner: Katie Hecht, Lavilla School of the Arts, Jacksonville, Florida
Runners-Up: Roussadana Ray, Park Row Christian Academy, Arlington, Texas
Kirk Zandier, South Park Middle School, South Park, Pennsylvania
Grace Blackburn, South Park Middle School, South Park, Pennsylvania.

About Weekly Reader Publishing
Weekly Reader has been creating cutting-edge, curriculum-rich materials read by tens of millions of children since 1902. The company’s unique digital products and 11 award-winning classroom magazines provide teachers with tools that help them achieve their goals while inspiring, informing, and engaging students. Weekly Reader publications today reach 200,000 teachers and 6 million students. All periodicals are available to subscribers in print and online in dynamic digital editions with interactive learning elements. In addition to grade-specific Weekly Reader elementary periodicals, the company publishes Current Events, Current Health, Current Science, and READ magazines for middle- and high-school students. Weekly Reader is part of the Reader’s Digest Association, Inc. For more information, visit

About Reader’s Digest Association
RDA is a global media and direct marketing company that educates, entertains and connects more than 130 million consumers around the world with products and services from trusted brands. With offices in 44 countries, the company reaches customers in 78 countries, publishes 90 magazines, including 50 editions of Reader’s Digest, the world’s largest-circulation magazine, operates 83 branded websites and sells nearly 40 million books, music and video products across the world each year.

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