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Special Needs Students Earn Handwriting Contest Awards

COLUMBUS, Ohio (April 24, 2013) - Today, Zaner-Bloser announces the Nicholas Maxim Award Winners in the 2013 National Handwriting Contest. The Nicholas Maxim Award honors two special needs students—one manuscript (print) winner and one cursive winner—for their dedication and mastery of handwriting. Zaner-Bloser created this special category in 2011 after judges received a contest entry from a talented young writer, Nicholas Maxim, a fifth grade Maine student born without lower arms. To be eligible for the Nicholas Maxim Award, a student must have a cognitive delay, or an intellectual, physical, or developmental disability.

This year’s manuscript (print) winner is Jhonatan Hernandez, a second grade student from P.S. 229 in Queens, NY, born with a cognitive delay that impairs his speech and language development. While Jhonatan credits his penmanship skills to his teachers and the paraprofessionals in his classroom, his educators are quick to give him credit for his hard work. “Jhonatan knows his handwriting is 'good,’” said Dr. Sibylle Ajwani, principal at P.S. 229. "His teacher, Ms. Levin, describes him as a very thoughtful and conscientious student who takes pride in his work. They say you can tell a lot about a person by analyzing their handwriting, so perhaps his good penmanship skills are not so unusual based on his delightful personality."

The cursive winner, Alex Girolamo, is a fifth grade student from St. Egbert Catholic School in Morehead, NC. Born with spastic cerebral palsy, Alex only began learning cursive last year when he transferred to the school. "Alex likes doing cursive and he says it's beautiful and it's fast," said Mary Barber, Alex's teacher. "Alex is one of those students who touches everyone's heart. He always has a smile on his face and he's an absolute joy to be around. He sees his writing as a positive reflection of him.”

"These students are a true inspiration to us and they deserve to be rewarded—not only for their exemplary handwriting, but also for their commitment and dedication to mastering this critical skill," said Zaner-Bloser President Bob Page. "Adding a special needs category has enabled us to encourage all students to participate in the contest and, in turn, to experience the sense of accomplishment that comes with practicing and learning to write by hand."

Both Alex and Jhonatan’s schools will hold award ceremonies to honor the Nicholas Maxim Award Winners in May. Zaner-Bloser will award each student $1,000 and a trophy.

Zaner-Bloser’s 22nd annual National Handwriting Contest attracted approximately 285,000 students (and approximately 3.3 million since its inception). For more information about the contest and the Nicholas Maxim Award, visit and click on the National Handwriting Contest icon.

About Zaner-Bloser
Zaner-Bloser, a wholly owned subsidiary of Highlights for Children with more than 120 years of experience in education, is one of the premier publishers of research-based reading, writing, spelling, vocabulary, and handwriting programs. The Zaner-Bloser mission is to create dynamic, appealing, and effective educational programs and services. Zaner-Bloser focuses on distinctive programs that inspire all students to become engaged, literate participants in the global society.

Tia Piacquadio, Zaner-Bloser,, 614-487-2630
Celina Fabrizio, Paul Werth Associates,, 614-224-8114


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