Clarksville 2nd grader one of 54 national finalists in Doodle for Google contest

James Pang is strong.

The 8-year-old Clarksville Elementary School student wants people to know that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s got physical strength. His strength is on full display in his artwork, which has the chance to win him a college scholarship, and his school $50,000 worth of new tech.

James has advanced to the national stage of the Doodle for Google competition. He’ll represent the state of Maryland in the contest, in which K-12 students submit a piece of artwork based on a theme. This year’s theme? “I am strong because …”

James Pang’s drawing, which is one of 54 state and territory finalists in the Doodle for Google contest, has a chance to win him a $30,000 college scholarship and his school $50,000 in new technology. (Courtesy Doodle for Google)

“I am strong because when I have a bad day, I find my inner peace and mental strength through meditation,” James said in his statement accompanying the drawing. “When I am bored, I read and imagine traveling around the world. When I have big emotions, I express myself through music and art. I am emotionally strong.”

The drawing, which James said he refined after more than 20 different sketches, shows him in his room meditating while surrounded by books, a globe, a dog and a piano surrounding him. Look closely enough, and the contents of the room spell “Google.” Outside his window, lightning erupts from grey clouds and thick droplets of blue rain pour down.

“Besides a healthy and fit body, you also need to have a fit and healthy mind and mindset,” James said.

That couldn’t be more true than during a pandemic that shut down James’ school and others around the world.

“It has been tough for many people,” James said. “And for me, the pandemic has been hard for me online, so it’s hard on the internet, stuff working, there’s glitches and everything like that.”

That’s one of the reasons he hopes to win the national competition. Google awards a $50,000 technology package to the school or non-profit organization of the winner’s choice.

The winner also gets a $30,000 college scholarship and some Google swag. Four other finalists will receive a $5,000 college scholarship.

James’ dad, Eric Pang, inspired him to enter the contest.

“He’s always been drawing, in daycare he was drawing all the time … he’s been taking classes and lessons for three years now, so he’s been drawing weekly,” Eric said. “We’re very proud of him and what he has accomplished, but we think he has great potential when it comes to drawing.”

For James, that $30,000 scholarship could mean a future in art. But he’s got an open mind and — as his drawing shows — he said there’s no bounds to what he could be when he grows up.

“First I was thinking a doctor just like Daddy — well, he’s not completely a doctor, he’s a scientist. I also like science so I could be a scientist, or I could be a musician, or I could be an artist. It’s just endless.”

Voting to choose the five national finalists begins at 11 a.m. Monday and will close at 2 a.m. Saturday.

WTOP’s Fonda Mwangi contributed to this report. 

Thomas Robertson

Thomas Robertson is an Associate Producer and Web Writer/Editor at WTOP. After graduating in 2019 from James Madison University, Thomas moved away from Virginia for the first time in his life to cover the local government beat for a small daily newspaper in Zanesville, Ohio.

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