By Julia Sunny and Lynn Bartels
The happiest place in Colorado today might just have been an Aurora elementary school where fourth-grader Madison Lee learned that the artwork she submitted to run on Google’s home page was picked as the winning entry from the Centennial State.
Her parents, her principal, her art teacher and an auditorium full of students wearing colorful Google T-shirts could barely contain themselves when Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams announced Madison as the winner.
She never stopped smiling after that.
“It hurts your mouth a lot to be a celebrity,” she said, as the celebration at Black Forest Hills Elementary School wound down.
Each year, Google holds a nationwide contest that allows students K-12 to submit their doodle for Google.com. This year’s theme was, “What I see for the future.”
“I thought it might be cool to have robotic people who clean your house and people who go to Mars … and aliens floating around,” she said.
Madison is one of 53 finalists nationwide for the ninth annual “Doodle 4 Google” competition. Starting today, everyone across the country can vote online (the link is here) for their favorite doodle. Voting ends March 6.
“Please vote for me!” said Madison, whose drawing is in the “Grades 4-5” category.
Voting is something Coloradans know about, Williams said.
“We had a high turnout for the presidential election, so let’s do it again,” he said. “Let’s support our local winner.”
The public vote will determine the five national finalists, one for each grade category, and which one of them is the national winner. The announcement will be made March 31, and the doodle will go live on Google.com that day. The national winner will receive a $30,000 scholarship and the winner’s school will received a $50,000 Google for Education grant toward the establishment and improvement of a computer lab or technology program.
Williams explained as a young boy he used to read the Encyclopedia, but the information could be outdated. When asked who had ever used the Internet, every student’s hand shot up.
“Google is one of those partners who has helped make the internet a place where we can find information,” Williams told them.
“One of the cool things, of course, is when you go to the Google site you see a fun doodle at the beginning.”
Madison said her teachers “oohed” and “aahed” when she turned in her drawing so she was hopeful.
But the ceremony was a surprise and her mother, Jungeun Lee, and her father, Kyungjoon Lee, stood in the back of the gymnasium until after Williams announced the winner. He asked the students for a drum roll and they pounded their tiny hands on the gym floor.
“As secretary of state, I get to run elections and handle business filings, but this is probably the most exciting thing I’m going to do this week, maybe this month, maybe eventhis year. Because it’s not every day you get to have the state finalist from your elementary school.
“IT’S MADISON J. LEE!” Williams said, as the students went wild.
Madison’s art teacher, Erica Knowlton, was thrilled for her student.
“This couldn’t have happened to a nicer kid,” said Knowlton, who has taught at Black Forest Hills for the past three years. “She’s amazing.”
Principal Ty Muma referred to the announcement as “fabulous news.”
“I think this reminds us all that the sky’s the limit,” he told students. “Let your imaginations go wild. There’s no telling what you all can create and do in your lifetime.”
THE DENVER POST: Read the Post’s story on Madison — and check out its great video.
CHERRY CREEK SCHOOL DISTRICT: Of course, the proud district covered the event.
Julia Sunny is the social media coordinator for the Colorado Secretary of State’s office.