North Dakota's Doodle for Google winner foreshadows valuing connection during pandemic
Watford City Middle School student chosen as the winner for North Dakota in Doodle for Google competition.
WATFORD CITY, N.D. — When 12-year-old Leah Dokken first heard Google's Doodle contest theme, "I show kindness by ..." in mid-March, she immediately thought of the small, everyday moments that would become so special in the coming months as schools transitioned to distance learning to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
"My thought process was, 'What is something that is overlooked that we all do, but don't do as much as we should?' " Leah said.
Leah, who will start sixth grade at Watford City Middle School this year, imagined two friends with their arms around each other, watching the sunset. Leah's mom, Laura, said her daughter's submission for the nationwide contest seems surreal as it was submitted just a few days before schools shut down in North Dakota.
"So in the artwork here, it says 'I show kindness by embracing the little moments that build friendships and lives.' That has been really surreal because this was submitted on March 13 and then schools shut down on March 15," Laura said. "And then it just seemed like the whole world closed down. "
Laura said her daughter's drawing highlighted connections we should value, even while their family and many others needed to self-isolate.
"And I just think when you look at the picture, it's two friends, you know, embracing the moment and and just being kind to each other," Laura said.
Last week Laura and her husband, Brian, and their son, Brock, celebrated Leah when Google's staff sent virtual congratulations and announced Leah's submission had been chosen as one of the 54 state and territory winners in its 12th annual Doodle for Google contest.
Submissions were judged on artistic merit, creativity and the artwork's ability to communicate the 2020 theme.
Leah — who wants to be an art teacher when she grows up — said she took two weeks to complete her submission.
Leah's drawing and artist's statement were selected from thousands of submissions by fourth and fifth graders. Google Doodle staff and guest judges included the following creators and educators:
- Lilly Singh, entertainer and creator
- Rodney Robinson, National Teacher of the Year title holder
- Mari Andrew, New York Times bestselling author and illustrator
Last week Leah and the other finalists were notified and received gifts from Google, which she opened during a surprise party.
Leah said she's excited to use the items she received in her prize package, which included an Acer Chromebook Tab 10, Google Home mini and a custom shirt and bag with her artwork on it along with custom stickers.
Through Friday, Aug. 21, people can vote for their favorite doodle from the 54 selected. From the votes, the top five national finalists will be selected before one winner will be chosen to feature in Google's search bar homepage.
Google will announce the five national finalists later this month. These top five finalists will each win a $5,000 college scholarship, Google hardware and custom swag before the top doodle will be selected. The artist of the final Doodle for Google winner will take home a $30,000 college scholarship and his or her school will receive a $50,000 tech package toward the establishment or improvement of a computer lab or technology program.
See Leah Dokken's doodle and vote for your favorite at https://doodles.google.com/d4g/vote/ .