Longmont's Sunset Middle eighth-grader finalist in Google doodle contest

Originally posted in the Times-Call >>

Sunset Middle School eighth-grader Sawyer Oja's vision of the natural beauty around the world that needs protection could end up on Google's homepage.

Sawyer recently was chosen as Colorado's finalist in Google's annual doodle contest, with her drawing now going on to compete against 52 others in the national contest.

For the contest, Google challenged K-12 students to redesign the Google logo based on the theme "What Inspires Me?"

Sawyer said she was "really surprised and really shocked" when she learned she was a finalist. Google led an assembly at her school to announce that she won, complete with a giant version of her drawing.

She drew the winning picture as a class assignment in her advanced art class at Sunset. She said her inspiration comes from animals and plants, so she chose to draw places around the world that she wants to see protected.

Her drawing features a rainforest, the Arctic and the Sahara desert and includes a tiger, parrots, polar bears, zebras and giraffes.

"I was trying to include all corners of the world," she said. "There are lots of parts of the world getting destroyed. It's important to represent how the whole world is getting impacted and how we need to change what we're doing."

She said she's always been drawn to drawing, teaching herself mainly through social media. She also attributes her passion for drawing to her parents, who both work in graphic design.

"Art is my favorite thing to do, ever," she said. "I draw a lot."

Her favorite medium is markers — she prefers specialty Copic markers because they blend well and make colors pop — while her favorite subject is horses. She has her own horse and competes in hunter jumping as part of a traveling team.

While she loves to draw horses, she said, she branched out for the Google competition.

"It's one of my better pieces because it's so much more diverse," she said.

A public vote will determine the five national finalists, and one of the five will be chosen as a national winner in June, when the national winner's doodle will go live on Google's site. The winner also will receive a $30,000 college scholarship, plus a $50,000 tech package for the student's school.

Voting opens on Monday and will go for two weeks at google.com/doodle4google/vote.html.