by Nicole Duciaume, Regional Sponsorship Coordinator, ChildFund Americas
At a small school in the Oklahoma countryside there is movement and bustling about — it’s the day before the last day of school. Giggles. Skipping. Laughter. Summer is around the corner!
Throughout the hallways are small hand-drawn signs: Vote for Katie.
No, she isn’t running for class president or for the local strawberry festival princess. The signs are reminding students and teachers to help Katie win the 2011 Doodle 4 Google contest. Katie is one of 40 regional finalists vying for the Grand Prize National Winner, who will take home a $15,000 college scholarship and a $25,000 technology grant for his or her school. Celebrity judges include actress Whoopi Goldberg and Olympic athletes Evan Lysacek and Michael Phelps. The winner will be announced May 19.
As we wait for Katie and her mother to join us in the art room, we admire the children’s paintings and drawings lining the walls. In the center of the display is a poster-size version of Katie’s Google artwork — about 5 feet high and 12 feet wide!
Suddenly, in bounds a 9-year-old with high energy and a smile that reaches ear to ear. Katie is a beautiful Cherokee child, who enrolled in ChildFund’s U.S. programs in 2008. She likes sports, the color blue, animals and singer/songwriter Taylor Swift.
As we get acquainted, I learn that Katie’s favorite subject is spelling: “I always get 100 in spelling and I get to put a sticker on the reward board.” Her favorite word to spell is “e-l-e-p-h-a-n-t.” No surprise then that the elephant is the dominant figure in her Google drawing. Katie giddily describes her own animals: “My cat is named Stephanie, and my brother named our dog, Wagsy.”
We talk more about her art, and she explains that many of her art supplies come from her sponsor’s family. Katie shares: “They know that I like to draw and I like to read. They send me funny books, too. And they send me erasable color pencils. I like writing to them a lot. They ask me about my cats and ask how I am doing in school. They ask me if I have won any drawing competitions lately. They are really nice and make me happy.”
Katie prefers to use crayons for her drawings, and animals are her favorite subjects. She tells me that she likes drawing because “it is fun and you get to go places.” She means that figuratively and literally. Her artwork often depicts distant places, exotic animals and people. And by winning so many competitions, she’s getting to travel. Just the previous day, she was at the Oklahoma state capitol collecting honors for her drawing for an anti-smoking campaign. And next week she will be boarding a plane to New York City to attend the Google awards ceremony.
“We will be there for a few days,” she exclaims. “We get to take a plane. And we will see the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower…wait, no, the Empire State Building. And we are going to be on Broadway and will probably see either “Mary Poppins” or “The Lion King.” And there will be a big party for us.”
Bubbling on: “I cannot believe I am going to New York and will see the Statue of Liberty. She recalls seeing a photo of the statue when she was younger: “I told my momma that I want to see her one day. She is so beautiful.”
A childhood dream is coming true through the power of self-expression. It’s been an honor to meet someone who has mastered shape, color, shading and depth. Katie is an artist! Yes, with an exclamation point!