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After Morgan Ison created her entry for the Doodle for Google scholarship competition in February, she mostly forgot about it.

There were more things on her mind, namely the pandemic disrupting her senior year of high school and her plans for beginning her college career at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville studying studio art.

But when someone from Google showed up at her front door with balloons this month, she wasn't only reminded she'd submitted to the competition, she learned she'd been selected as the winner among Arkansas applicants and would be moving forward to the next round of competition.

"I'm not sure that I've fully processed it. I was definitely not expecting to get anything," Ison said. "I didn't quite grasp how big of a deal it was really until even after they announced it to me."

The Doodle for Google scholarship competition allows students to submit drawings on a theme, and a winner from every state and U.S. territories is selected.

Those 54 winners are divided into five groups based on grade level, and one doodler from each grade level group is selected as a national finalist based on online votes. Ison is in the grades 10-12 group competing against 10 other doodlers.

National finalists each receive $5,000 scholarships unless they are selected by judges as the overall winner. That artist receives a $30,000 scholarship, $50,000 in technology for their school and other prize items.

This year's theme was "I show kindness by ...." Ison, who graduated in the spring from the North Little Rock Center of Excellence, said she started her doodle by thinking about the different ways to be kind.

"Kindness, especially in times of tension, is an extremely important thing to share," she wrote in her artist's statement that accompanied the entry. "Learning to share, be patient, be there for one another, and to give one another space are all skills that are extremely helpful to learn at a young age, all of which are shown throughout my Doodle."

She illustrated the theme by showing children of different races on a playground talking, sharing and playing. One child, though, hangs upside down, alone.

Ison said she wanted that character to represent kindness to oneself, which she said for some introverts like her means taking time to be alone and recharge.

"In things like this, I always saw it with being kind to other people, which is definitely important, but I hadn't seen a whole lot of taking time to reflect on yourself," Ison said.

Ison said she will promote her doodle wherever she can. She said the prospect of winning scholarship money is exciting, but she's just as excited -- if not more excited -- about the possibility of winning for her school.

She said she hopes some of the winnings will go toward the art department, which she participated in throughout her time in high school.

Tonya Wentzel, who teaches art at the school, said she has tried to keep the focus on her former student.

"I told Morgan it's all about her," Wentzel said. "I'm more excited about the fact that she could get school paid for herself. That'll give her one heck of a start in life, not having the debt of college and maybe going on to get her master's. I'm more excited about that."

Wentzel said Ison is clearly a talented artist, but she's also a deserving person.

"She's an extremely intelligent and very kind person," Wentzel said. "I think the theme fit her so well because she embodies kindness."

Public voting to select the five national finalists closes at 1:59 a.m. Central time Saturday.


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