King K 3rd grader a Doodle 4 Google finalist

HANAMA‘ULU — Sophia Gregory, a third-grade student at King Kaumuali‘i Elementary School, is going to New York this month.

Gregory was named one of 50 finalists in the Doodle 4 Google contest Wednesday, during a visit by a team from the Google office and another team from its advertising firm.

“Sophia’s entry was picked from more 114,000 entries submitted for the contest across the nation,” said Laura Melahn of  Google’s product marketing office in San Francisco, Calif. “The main idea behind Google is to make it easy to learn about new things and the idea behind the Doodle 4 Google contest is to have fun with the Google logo.”

Now that Gregory has been selected as a finalist, she needs help.

Melahn said between Wednesday and May 10, people can visit  Google.com and click on “Which masterpiece should win?”

The click unveils all 50 of the doodles , and viewers can vote for their favorites through May 10.

On May 17, all of the finalists, including Sophia, will gather at the Google New York office where the four finalists will be named.

“They arranged for two people to go to New York,” said Mark Gregory of IT Kaua‘i, Sophia’s father. “We were planning a family trip the week after that so Camille, Sophia’s mom, will be accompanying her to New York for two days.”

Should Sophia win, she will receive a $30,000 college scholarship to a college of her choice, said Melahn, who was born and raised in Honolulu before accepting a job with Google in San Francisco. Additionally, King Kaumuali‘i Elementary School receives $50,000 for its technology department.

Karen Liu, the school’s principal, said the Google team arrived with special Doodle 4 Google t-shirts for all of the school’s third-grade students and its teachers, emblazoned with the theme of this year’s contest, “If I could travel in time, I’d visit…”

“Something like this doesn’t happen every day,” said Fig Mitchell, the school’s vice principal. “This student is going to New York as the representative of the state, not just Kaua‘i.”

Susan Perez, Sophia’s teacher and a product of the Grown on Kaua‘i teacher program spearheaded by the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay, said she got the idea to have students enter the contest after speaking with fellow third-grade teacher Marjorie Hanus.

“I got the help of my husband, Hector Perez, to help the students with their art,” Susan said. “He’s the artist. The first thing he told them was to ‘Show them Hawai‘i, show them the beauty of Hawai‘i.’ After he got through working with the students, the second thing he told them was, ‘There is a winner in this room.’”

Sophia’s piece incorporates the Hawaiian culture that surrounds her daily.

Taking the Google logo, she wrapped the “G” with lei and drew the two “o’s” peering through a breaking wave next to a g-shaped ‘ukulele with an upright “l” canoe paddle and and an “e”-emblazoned rock with King Kamehameha standing on top, also resembling Kaumuali‘i, Kaua‘i’s last king.

Everything fits nicely atop an outrigger canoe.

Kerry Murrill of Google’s New York office said the tradition of changing the Google logo on special occasions started in 1998, when the first Google doodle appeared.

Seven years ago, Google launched the Doodle 4 Google contest, which has grown to more than 114,000 entries from all corners of the country.

A panel of guest judges including actors, singers, illustrators and cartoonists helped determine the 50 finalists, with the final selection to be determined by voters to the Google website.

Among the guest judges for this year were singer Katy Perry, singer and actress Jordin Sparks, “Phineas and Ferb” creator and producer Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, Knufflebunny creator Mo Willems, Spiderwick Chronicles author Holly Black, Spiderwick Chronicles illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi, Crayola Digital Design Creative Director Brian Nemeckay, and Jack Martin, Assistant Director for Public Programs and Lifelong Learning for Children, Teens and Families at The New York Public Library, states the Google website.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.

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