Acclaimed Author and Medgar Evers College Professor Tonya Hegamin Wins “Sunshine” State Young Reader’s Award for “Pemba’s Song: A Ghost Story”

Prof. Tonya Hegamin

Acclaimed children’s book author and Medgar Evers College English Professor Tonya Hegamin is the winner of the 2012 “Sunshine” State Young Reader’s Award, for her teen novella, Pemba’s Song: A Ghost Story. The novella, coauthored by Marilyn Nelson, was written to sponsor homeless, self-taught historian Abraham Hajj – fictionalized in the book – as he sought to live his dream of studying the influence of African culture in Mexico.

“I’m honored and grateful to have won this award, especially because it was chosen by the students of West Palm Beach County,” said Hegamin. “For me, that means that the book is actively being read and appreciated by students. They are my primary audience.”

April is for Authors, the program that grants the “Sunshine” State Young Reader’s award, has also invited Prof. Hegamin to Florida to interact with the students during speaking engagements at several schools and libraries in April 2012. Prof Hegamin, with the assistance of April is for Authors, will have an opportunity to do a fundraising event on Abraham’s behalf while in Florida. She will also receive an Honorarium and that will be donated to Abraham Hajj to further his aspirations.

Prof. Hegamin is also the author of a children’s picture book, Most Loved in all the World which was the winner of the 2010 Ezra Jack Keats Award for Excellence in Children’s Literature and was featured in the parenting section of Ebony Magazine’s November 2009 issue. The picture book was named one of the best for Black History Month by USA TODAY, and also won a Christopher Award for Young People. She currently teaches Creative Writing, Children’s Literature and Composition at Medgar Evers College. She received a B.A. in Poetry from the University of Pittsburgh, an MFA in Creative Writing from the New School University and is an alumna of the Cave Canem and Hedgebrook writing retreats.

“It is gratifying to see Prof. Hegamin continues to be recognized for her extraordinary talents,” said Dr. William L. Pollard, President of Medgar Evers College. “She is a dedicated educator whose work shines in the classroom and on the page.”

About the “Sunshine” State Young Reader’s Award Program

The “Sunshine” State Young Reader’s Award Program established in 1983, is a statewide reading motivation program for students in grades 6-8 cosponsored by the School Library Media Services Office of the Department of Education and the Florida Association for Media in Education (FAME). The purpose of the SSYRA Program is to entice students to read high interest, contemporary literature for personal enjoyment and to encourage them to read independently for personal satisfaction, based on interest rather than reading level. Sunshine State books are selected for their wide appeal, literary value, varied genres, curriculum connections, and/or multicultural representation. The long term goal of the program is to nurture lifelong readers who will continue to read for information needs and personal pleasure.

The selection committee for the awards is composed of students from West Palm Beach County schools participating in the program. The Awards are presented annually to books for children and teenagers. Honorees include Tom Angleberger, Julianna Baggott, Berkeley Breathed, Sharon M. Draper, Kat Falls, Carl Hiaasen, Greg Logsted, Katherine Paterson, Gary Paulsen, James Prellar, Brandon Sanderson, Arthur G. Slade, Greg Taylor and Jacqueline Woodson.

April is for Authors is a county-wide literacy event that brings authors together to interact with students and parents. The event was created by a group of dedicated Palm Beach County educators as a way for students to interact with their favorite authors, it will provide not only a valuable experience for the children, but also an opportunity for authors and illustrators to connect with their audience as well as key decision makers in the local literacy programs. The Partners of this program is the School District of Palm Beach County, Palm Beach Gardens High School, Palm Beach County Library System, Literacy Coalition of Palm Beach County, and Kiwanis Club of Singer Island Sunrise and the Russ Corser Foundation.

About Medgar Evers College, CUNY

Medgar Evers College was founded in 1970 through the efforts from educators and community leaders in central Brooklyn. The College is named after Medgar Wiley Evers, a Mississippi-born black civil rights activist who was assassinated on June 12, 1963. The College is divided into four schools: The School of Business; The School of Professional and Community Development; The School of Liberal Arts and Education; and The School of Science, Health, and Technology. Through these Schools, the College offers 29 associate and baccalaureate degree programs, as well as certificate programs in fields such as English, Nursing, and Accounting. Medgar Evers College also operates several co-curricular and external programs and associated centers such as the Male Development and Empowerment Center, the Center for Women’s Development, the Center for Black Literature, and The DuBois Bunche Center for Public Policy.