Akilah Johnson, a 10th grader from Washington, D.C., dreams of becoming a CSI detective and starting an arts and crafts studio for kids. Google is helping her reach those dreams by naming her the winner of the United States’ 2016 Doodle 4 Google competition for young artists, which comes with a $30,000 college scholarship, a Chromebook, and an Android tablet, among other prizes.
Johnson’s design, which was featured on Google’s homepage on March 21, 2016, represents this year’s contest theme of "What makes me...me." by showcasing her African American heritage. Her design was selected from 100,000 K-12 student submissions by celebrity judges including Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry, soccer player and Olympic gold medalist Alex Morgan, actors Julie Bowen and B.J. Novak, and others.
According to an article in USA Today, five student finalists were invited to Google's headquarters for the announcement. They were invited to participate in workshops with the doodle team and contest judges such as astronaut Yvonne Cagle and animator Glenn Keane. The competition has been held every year since 2008.
"Doodle 4 Google gave me an understanding of why art matters and why MY art matters—it’s because it speaks to people," Johnson said. "No matter the differences we have, everyone is touched by all art in some way."
In addition to the scholarship, Johnson’s school, Eastern Senior High School, will be awarded a $50,000 education-technology grant from Google.
“Exposure to the arts develops an invaluable and intrinsic link to creative thinking and innovation,” said Dennis Hwang, Google's founding Doodler and creator of the Google 4 Doodle competition, when he received Art in Action's innaugural Art Visionary Award in 2015. “For me, creativity and science have always gone hand in hand. My unique career trajectory at Google developed as a result of having studied both art and computer science.”