All twelve of the Visionaries and Dreamers were honored at the awards celebration on-stage at the Lyric. (Photo by Natalie Singleton)

By Special to the AFRO

Winners of the 5th annual Dream Big Contest were recently announced and celebrated at the Lyric Baltimore, the historic live-entertainment venue in Baltimore, Md. 

The Lyric Foundation, which operates and maintains the theater, announced both Dreamers (runners-up) and Visionaries (grand prize winners) on the Lyric stage. 

“The Lyric Education team is so proud of all of our 2022 Dream Big Contest finalists,” said Director of Education at the Lyric Baltimore, Denise Kumani Gantt, in a statement. “These students have put in the work to imagine impressive, creative solutions to real-life inequities they and others face in their lives. We are always moved by the vision of young people in our community, and can’t wait for them to be able to share their dreams on stage with an audience.” 

The contest kicked off in January on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day when The Lyric Foundation asked Baltimore-area students in grades 5 through 12 to consider their big dreams—for their lives, communities, and schools. The students were then asked to submit a poem, essay or video bringing that dream to life. This year’s finalists were selected by the final adjudicator, Fanon Hill, Director of the Youth Resiliency Institute.  

In person for the first time since going virtual in 2020 and 2021, the awards celebration was hosted by WBAL-TV anchor Jason Newton. Democratic Maryland State Senator Cory V. McCray, of District 45, provided the program’s keynote address. An opening performance was also given by local spoken word artist, Sha-Shonna Rogers.  

This year’s Visionaries shared their winning works on April 18, on-stage in the Lyric theater house and received a prize package estimated at $750 in value. 

Dreamers in attendance also received awards and were welcomed on stage. Prizes including laptops, cash prizes, and more were made possible thanks to numerous sponsors: BGE, Bank of America, Comcast, Greenberg Gibbons, Whiting-Turner, and the Dream Big media sponsor, WBAL-TV 11 News. 

“We are proud to support the Dream Big Contest and are inspired by the creative stories shared by this year’s finalists as they reflect on their personal experiences and important issues impacting their communities,” said Director of Government and Community Affairs for Comcast’s Beltway Region, Dawn Kirstaetter. “The laptops donated to this year’s students will help leverage their creativity to foster new digital skills, and aligns with our commitment to ensure every individual has access to the tools and skills to succeed in today’s increasingly digital world.” 

Winning “visionary” Grayson Bess, a 5th grader at Calvert School, with his parents. and a $500 prize. (Photo by Natalie Singleton)

Bank of America Greater Maryland sponsored the contest for the students this year.

“The Lyric Foundation’s Dream Big Essay Contest offers students the opportunity to showcase their visions on how to make our community and world a better place,” said Janet Currie, president of Bank of America Greater Maryland. “At Bank of America, we believe in the power of the arts to educate and enrich societies, create greater cultural understanding and help communities thrive. We are grateful for the work of the Lyric Foundation—which encourages growth, inspires leadership and creates opportunities for local youth to create a pathway for a stronger future.” 

For readers looking to see the awards program, catch the WBAL-TV broadcast of the ceremony at 11:30 am on April 24th. 

Congratulations to the following students:  


Joshua Sharp, Grade 12, The Community School  

BellaGrace Annibal, Grade 6, Homeschooled  

Grayson Bess, Grade 5, Calvert School  

Chiemela Nwokoro, Grade 10, Eastern Technical High School  

Xin Yue Lu, Grade 10, Dulaney High School  

Graham TerBeek, Grade 6, Dumbarton Middle School  


Fatou Diouf, Grade 11, Baltimore City College  

Asia Webster, Grade 9, Baltimore City College  

Jamya Anderson, Grade 5, Dallas F. Nicholas Elementary School  

Joy Onchera, Grade 6, The Belair-Edison School  

Carrie Snowden, Grade 11, Baltimore Design School  

Carmyn Harvin, Grade 11, Kenwood High School 

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