Article by Ariel Gilreath, photo by Joshua S. Kelley
Early Friday morning, Emerald High School student Khalil Lake, 20, woke up with no idea it would be different than any other day — he didn’t know he had won an art contest competing with students from across South Carolina.
The Doodle 4 Google competition has students from every state as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam draw a Google Doodle that is then judged by six celebrities picked by Google.
Khalil, who has cerebral palsy and an intellectual disability, is one of those 53.
Representatives from Google kept the award under wraps, only letting Khalil’s mom — Sheree Lake — and some of his teachers in on the excitement.
Sheree got the call from Google about three and a half weeks ago.
“She was like, ‘Well, Khalil won for the state of South Carolina,’ so I go to screaming,” she said. “I know I probably scared the poor lady.”
This year’s Doodle 4 Google judges were actress Julie Bowen, astronaut and professor Yvonne Cagle, professional basketball player Stephen Curry, director and animator Glen Keane, professional soccer player Alex Morgan and writer, director and producer B.J. Novak.
Khalil was born two months premature and is restricted in what he can do and see, Sheree said.
His special education teacher, Stacy White, works with him every day and said he has limited use of his hands.
“This was created with an iPad app,” White said. “He has one hand that he works with, and so that was created with Finger Paint app.”
White said Khalil spent about an hour on the doodle, which shows swirling lines and wisps of color coming off each letter in “Google” set in front of a background of wrinkled, wheat-colored paper.
When Khalil’s wheelchair rolled to the middle of the gym where he could be recognized for his work, students filling Emerald’s bleachers erupted into cheers.
“It’s just so fabulous for Khalil to be able to show the world that even though he is limited by his body, that he is still able to produce so much beauty, and I’m glad the world gets to see that and to celebrate that and to celebrate Khalil,” White said.
Marsha McKee, special education assistant at the school, said Khalil has a lot going on inside of him that not everyone gets to see.
“There’s so much trapped inside of his head,” McKee said. “When you’ve got this body that, you’ve got this in your head, but you can’t really, truly see, you can’t carry on a big, long conversation, you can’t tell anybody what’s going on, you can’t use your arms and your legs — to be able to use this and do some kind of communication — it’s just amazing.”
White said Khalil has surpassed physical and mental tasks his doctors assumed he would never be able to do.
“He is very smart,” White said. “Since he’s come here, he has learned to read 125 words, so if you spelled them to him, he can tell you what those words are. He’s learned to add and subtract using manipulatives. He’s learned to verbalize his feelings — things that they said when he came to me that he would not be able to do. So he’s grown like, 500 percent. He is, he’s a very intelligent kid. He’s just precious to me.”
Khalil was presented with an Android tablet from Google at the celebration, where he was congratulated by local officials, including Mayor Welborn Adams, Sen. Floyd Nicholson and Councilman Gonza Bryant.
Voting for Khalil’s artwork will be open until Feb. 22 and is open to everyone, and votes can be placed once every day to help Khalil become one of five finalists in the contest. If Khalil wins the national competition, he will receive a $30,000 scholarship and Emerald will receive a $50,000 grant for its art department, along with his artwork being depicted on Google’s website for a day.
“It would just be a blessing if he actually won the entire thing and could actually go to college, because he loves school,” Sheree said. “Even on the weekends he says, ‘Mom, is my bus coming?'”
To vote for Khalil’s entry, visit: http://bit.ly/1TJaZue