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  • Courtesy Photo

    Hollis Primary School second grader Nicolas McElvery was named the state finalist in 2012 in a national Doodle 4 Google event after entering this drawing called "Dino Jungle."
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel

    Nicolas McElvery's dinosaur drawing was a finalist for a Google contest. He and his art were the star attraction at an assembly at the Hollis Primary School Wednesday, May 2, 2012.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel

    Google representatives from their California headquarters quizzed students at an assembly at the Hollis Primary School Wednesday, May 2, 2012.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel

    Trish Crawley of Google, left, and Congressman Charles Bass stand with Nicolas at the assembly at the Hollis Primary School Wednesday, May 2, 2012.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Hollis second-grader finalist in Doodle 4 Google contest

Until this week, Nicolas McElvery was an average second-grader at Hollis Primary School, worrying about what kind of animal to study for his big research project.

On Wednesday morning, however, Nicolas became a school celebrity, as school staff and students, congressman Charlie Bass and Google employees turned out to honor him as the state finalist in a national Doodle 4 Google contest.

The fifth annual competition asks participants to doodle a picture, incorporating the Google logo, to be used on the website’s home page for a day. This year’s theme for the doodles was time travel, and participants were challenged to draw a picture of where they would like to travel.

For Nicolas, this resulted in what he called a “Dino Jungle,” a picture of a prehistoric landscape that featured a palm tree made out of the logo’s “L” and colorful dinosaurs.

His drawing was picked as one of the top 50 out of about 114,000 entries. It will now be entered into the national competition to win a $30,000 college scholarship, as well as a $50,000 technology grant for Hollis Primary School.

Nicolas is an avid artist who wants to be an athlete, illustrator or author. He said it was his first year entering the competition but that he immediately knew what he wanted to draw.

“I thought of dinosaurs because they’re quite popular and most people want to learn about them,” he said Wednesday, standing in front of a huge poster of his doodle displayed in the school cafeteria.

McElvery said he was surprised to learn he was the state finalist in the competition, but his family agreed no one was more surprised than his mom, Celine McElvery.

She said Wednesday that she helped her son submit his drawing to the contest, but that she had no idea he would be selected.

“He would ask me every day, ‘Has Google called?’,” Celine McElvery said, laughing. “I told him there were a lot of entries and that they probably wouldn’t call but that I would tell him if they did.”

Celine McElvery got that opportunity recently when Google called to tell her the company would be flying her son and their family to New York City for the national award ceremony May 17.

“That was when it finally sunk in,” she said. “It’s kind of crazy.”

Principal Elizabeth Allen said the staff was shocked to hear about the second-grader’s honor, and that Wednesday was an exciting day for the whole school.

“We’re just really proud of him,” she said.

Fellow students showed that excitement at a special assembly to honor Nicolas on Wednesday.

Wearing multicolored Google shirts, students clapped, cheered and jumped up and down when McElvery’s name was called out in the cafeteria.

Two Google employees, Trish Crawley and Guillaume De Zwirek, flew from California to attend the assembly and taught students about how the search engine works.

De Zwirek showed students their school, the Google headquarters and even the moon using the Google Earth tool and helped them translate an email into French to send to his brother from the students.

Bass also spoke to students, telling them he was honored to be at their school.

“I have to do a lot of things, some of them more fun than others,” he told students. “But I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun than I have the last 50 minutes here with you.”

Bass discussed the opportunities students have now, due to the technology they can use to learn, and he said he wished he had similar tools during his years in school.

After the assembly, Bass gave Nicolas his business card and, laughing, told the second-grader to call him if he ever gets in trouble.

Allen said that for a typically shy student, Nicolas was quickly adjusting to his role as a school celebrity.

And while she said she is just happy that he was named as a finalist, the school would benefit greatly from the $50,000 technology grant up for grabs in the national competition.

The school has already embraced technology in all classrooms, she said, using electronic whiteboards, iPads and laptops for various reasons. The school is also equipped with building-wide wireless Internet.

If Nicolas were to win the national competition, Allen said the school would be interested in purchasing e-readers, like Nooks or Kindles, to have for students to take out of the library, as well as more iPads and laptops.

The public can help McElvery win – and help Hollis Primary School get the technology grant – by voting before May 10.

Danielle Curtis can be reached at 594-6557 or