Mundelein student's doodle wins Google prize

When the hundreds of students assembled Thursday in the big gym at West Oak Middle School in Mundelein were asked whether they had ever Googled something, nearly every arm shot up.

Such is the reach of Google. And now, one of West Oak's own may get the chance to have her “Google Doodle” viewed by millions of fellow online searchers.

Marsha Tagala, a 11-year old fifth-grader at the Diamond Lake District 76 school, was introduced Thursday as the Illinois winner of a national contest. She is now one of 53 state/territorial winners who will be vying for a grand prize that includes a $30,000 scholarship and a $50,000 technology package for her school.

“We thought your vision for the future was so inspiring,” Jackie Lau, who works in marketing for Google and came from San Francisco for the surprise announcement Thursday.

Marsha's image for the ubiquitous and creative doodles — featured daily as part of the Google online logo to illustrate and support an event, message or theme — depicts a heap of trash and spreading flowers.

It is a message of hope for the environment, a thought Marsha said struck her after seeing garbage during walks.

“I wasn't very happy. We were treating our environment so poorly so I took inspiration and drew this,” said Marsha, who aspires to be a robotics engineer.

“I wanted the flowers to be symbolic of more people thinking of better ways to treat the environment and a better future for earth.”

Google has been holding the annual contest since 2008. Lau said she didn't know how many entries came from Illinois but estimated that “hundreds of thousands” were received from throughout the country.

All 400 or so West Oak students received bright yellow, green, blue and red “Doodle for Google” T-shirts in the lead-up to Thursday's presentation.

“It was the hardest thing to keep this a secret,” said West Oak Principal Chris Willeford, who was contacted by Google two weeks ago.

Marsha's parents, Sharon and Marc, stayed out of sight until all the kids were seated.

“When it comes to my daughter's creativity, I do not dictate,” Marc Tagala, a web developer, said afterward. “I don't even think we gave her any suggestions. She thought of it herself.”

For winning Illinois, Marsha received a T-shirt printed with her winning doodle and a Chromebook. Voting for the national finalists will start Monday at

Her father is hopeful Marsha will advance in the competition.

“We're aiming for MIT, and that school is expensive,” he said.

  Marsha Tagala, 11, gets a hug from her father, Marc, after she learned she won the 2019 Illinois Google Doodle competition. The surprise announcement was made Thursday during a student assembly at West Oak Middle School in Mundelein. Steve Lundy/
  11-year-old Marsha Tagala, left, unveils her Google Doodle entry with Jackie Lau of Google on Thursday during a student assembly at West Oak Middle School in Mundelein. Steve Lundy/
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