During the winter, Sydney Shephard and Madelyn Weinstein, both fourth-graders at Woodrow Wilson School in Neptune City, entered — along with their classmates — a statewide folder contest hosted by the Partnership for a Drug Free New Jersey.
Out of 8,000 entries, these two best friends were excited to find out they were both among the top 30 finalists, and their work will be featured on a poster that will be on display at libraries and schools across the state. At an awards ceremony held in Newark on April 24, they were also surprised and happy to learn that Madelyn was one of two statewide grand-prize winners whose artwork will also be printed on a folder that will be distributed to all the elementary schools statewide.
“When I realized I was one of the 30 finalists, I jumped,” said Madelyn. “I was really happy that out of 8,000 kids, that I actually was a winner. I’m still happy about it! Then I found out (about being a grand-prize winner) when I was onstage (at the ceremony), and I ran up to Sydney and started hugging her.
“When my name was announced, I thought, ‘Was there a spelling error or something?’ Then I realized I had actually won!” she added.
Madelyn’s winning folder art featured the saying “All In to Stop Drugs.”
“I drew a picture of hands, all different sizes and shapes, all on top of each other and ready to fly up like at a basketball game,” she said, adding that she plays basketball and softball and was inspired by pregame team cheers.
Sydney’s artwork featured roller skates, with the idea of getting far away from drugs.
“If you know drugs are bad for you, why don’t you run away from them?” she recalled thinking when she came up with her idea for the folder art. Sydney said she, too, was really excited to learn she was a finalist.
“I was actually really, really surprised,” she said. “Since, 8,000 kids had entered, and finding out I was one of the finalists, it made my heart pump a lot! My parents were psyched, too. I was proud of myself ... my dad said I was the first finalist in the family.” She said they all had a great time at the ceremony and visiting the Newark Museum afterward.
Sydney’s parents are Wendy and Steve Shephard, and Madelyn’s parents are Heather Adams and Michael Laird. Their teachers at Woodrow Wilson are Karen Bonney (Sydney’s teacher) and Barbara Reynolds (Madelyn’s teacher).
“We were so excited and thrilled to see our daughter Sydney and her friend Madelyn on the stage together for such an important cause,” said Wendy Shephard. “We couldn’t be prouder of the girls. And we would like to thank Sydney’s teachers for encouraging her to be the best person she can be.”
“We are so proud of Madelyn’s accomplishment,” said Adams. “What a moment to treasure forever! We are also thankful for her wonderful teachers, who instill creativity every day.”
The was open to all fourth-graders from 360 elementary schools in the state. More than 8,000 artwork submissions were received.
Sydney and Madelyn, along with the other 28 state finalists, received a personalized medal and were treated to a special award ceremony, a luncheon and private tour of the Newark Museum. Each of the 30 finalists’ folders will be part of a PDFNJ poster that every elementary school and public library will receive in September.
As a grand-prize winner, Madelyn also won tickets to a Yankees game. The girls — who were accompanied to the ceremony by Wendy and Steve Shephard, Heather Adams, Madelyn’s grandmother Kerry Gizzi and teachers Karen Bonney and Barbara Reynolds — proudly represented Woodrow Wilson Elementary School in Neptune City.