"My Best Day Ever" was the theme of this year's national Doodle 4 Google contest, and when Sewell seventh grader Maria Iannone heard back in April that her artwork had been selected as her state's winner, that was a very good day indeed.
This week was even better.
On Tuesday, at a fete for the state finalists at Google's Manhattan offices, Maria learned she was one of five national winners.
"I was kind of overwhelmed, but I wasn't really freaking out or anything," Maria said Wednesday, remembering her name being called as the winner in the sixth-and-seventh-grade age group.
After that, the state and national winners were taken to the American Museum of Natural History to see their artwork, which will be on display through July 14.
The top national winner was Sabrina Brady, a 12th grader from Sparta, Wis., whose doodle - those fanciful plays on the Google logo - was about her father's return from an 18-month deployment to Iraq. She gets a $30,000 scholarship, and her school gets a $50,000 technology grant.
Maria, a student at Washington Township's Chestnut Ridge Middle School, and three other winners each get a $5,000 scholarship.
That's pretty sweet, given that Maria admits she wasn't sure she was actually going to enter the contest when her dad came home one day and told her about it. But the scholarships were appealing, and the chance of a trip to Google and New York City sealed the deal.
She powered up her computer tablet. Her astronomy-inspired doodle took her six hours. In it, a figure gazes at a yellow crescent moon through a telescope. The sky is starry. On May 1, Google representatives came to a special assembly at her school to announce she was a state winner.
As part of this week's announcement, Google sprung for two nights in a hotel for each student winner and an adult companion, but the Iannones - four girls, mom Nancy, and dad Vincent - got another room and made it a family outing.
"We had a blast," said Nancy Iannone, an adjunct professor at Rutgers School of Law. "They just did such a great job."