CHEYENNE – When 14-year-old Ashli Smedley answered the door Monday afternoon, she wasn’t expecting a giant gift and a bundle of rainbow balloons.
But her mom, Trisha, had been waiting for that moment for weeks. She previously learned that Ashli earned the spot of Wyoming’s finalist in the Doodle for Google competition, and the folks from Google said they’d be there in August to present the surprise.
Each year, Doodle for Google accepts entries from school-age kids across the country, chooses a finalist from each state and territory, and awards the nation’s top five entries a college scholarship. Though the contest received tens of thousands of entries this year, Ashli’s design stood out in front of the judges and put her through to the national finals.
As she opened the door to the package from Google, her jaw dropped, and her eyes lit up.
“I am crazy surprised,” Ashli said.
As Wyoming’s finalist, Ashli has the chance to win the entire contest, with the top prize being a $30,000 college scholarship and a $50,000 technology package for her school or a chosen nonprofit. From Aug. 17-21, people across the country will vote for their favorite designs, and the artist whose design has the most votes wins.
When the voting opens, you can vote for Ashli’s design at doodles.google.com/d4g/.
The final product took Ashli seven hours of labor and love, and it exemplifies how a simple act of kindness can brighten someone’s day, following the prompt, “I show kindness by ...”
Ashli said the images were based on her own life, pointing to intricate drawings of her childhood self hugging her mom and sharing an ice cream cone with a dog.
“She’s going throughout her day and doing acts of kindness to make someone feel better,” Ashli said. “It just shows simple acts of kindness and how they can do great things.”
The warm tones of the drawing, the character’s kind expressions and the creativity behind the idea make the doodle seem like it was done by a college art student, rather than a 14-year-old about to start high school. But according to her mom, that’s how Ashli is in her day-to-day life.
Already, Ashli is studying her vocabulary to prepare for the ACT. Though she hasn’t started high school, Ashli is ahead of the game, with about 2,000 words under her belt.
“She’s just been one of those children that just takes something and runs with it,” Trisha said.
While Ashli is recognized as a hard worker, Trisha also said her daughter is “so fun spirited and just so creative.” Her current art project involves painting incredibly realistic flowers on garden stones, taking advantage of online tutorials to learn new skills.
Her dedication to her craft paid off and earned her the top title in Wyoming, and Google awarded Ashli some tools that will hopefully help with her future endeavors, including a new tablet and Google Home device. They also sent Ashli a personalized video, since they couldn’t present the award in person due to COVID-19.
In the video, staff from Google said, “When you give students access to the whole world, you give them the power to affect it.”
This story originally appeared online at WyomingNews.com and the WyoNews app at 4:35 p.m. Monday.