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June 8, 2010 > Sylvia Gong finalist in International UN art competition

Sylvia Gong finalist in International UN art competition

By Miriam G. Mazliach
Photos By Miriam G. Mazliach

Sylvia Gong's mother, Yumei Lee, remembers when her daughter was younger and went to Mission Valley Elementary. "Her teachers said she was very creative." Now 13 and an 8th grader at Hopkins Junior High, Gong was recently announced as the first place winner for North America of the United Nations, Environment Programme's 19th International Children's Painting Competition (ICPC). First begun in 1991, the new theme for this year's International Children's Painting Competition was bio-diversity.

Gong traveled to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on June 3 - 4, to attend the World Environment Day celebrations in this year's North American region's host city.

ICPC winners' announcements were made at the opening reception of the exhibition held at the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh, where Gong was awarded her $1,000 first-place prize.

The following day, she attended the student workshop, at the Carnegie Science Center, "Water Matters to Youth, Too." Dr. Mae C. Jemison, a United States astronaut, environmental studies professor and spokesperson for Bayer's "Making Science Make Sense," led the workshop. Approximately 70 middle school students participated in an interactive series of hands-on activities, learning about and solving problems related to local, regional and global water issues.

Gong started drawing at the age of 5 then stopped for a few years, before starting up again at age 11 in the 6th grade.

Her mother, Yumei Lee, runs an art school, the Yumei Center for Artistic Inspiration. "Twenty-eight of my students entered the art competition," says Lee, who encouraged all her students to enter. "Many times, students from the Cupertino and Palo Alto area have done well; so, I was really surprised and happy when I found out my daughter had won."

Lee adds, "I have many other talented students and I felt that my daughter didn't feel confident about her skills; but, this competition was really about creativity. I knew the poster was very, very good, when she had finished."

Gong entered the required poster sized entry into the competition. "I used color pencils and it took three months to draw. I thought of a tiger as I remember reading it was endangered," she says.

Her drawing depicts the world as seen through the eyes of the endangered tiger. The right side is colored in grays, to show how the world is destroying habitats. The left side of the drawing is colorful and shows how to heal and prevent destruction of animals and creatures. Gong explains, "Through art I can spread the message."

For the competition, Gong included the following description with her drawing: "What could be is being destroyed by what is. The present world is being hunted by its occupants for its resources. Its occupants, however, can stop the hunting. In the end, it is a matter of choice, to rescue the ill-treated world or to ignore it. Nature is watching us."

During October 20 - 25, Gong will travel to Nagoya, Japan to attend the UN's Tunza International Children's Conference where she will join with other first-place ICPC winners from other regions (Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and West Asia). The top prize award is $2,000.

As for future goals, Gong who has also taken ceramics classes has recently been spending a lot of time doing computer graphics and foresees graphic design as a possible career. "I am surprised about winning. I didn't think I was the kind of person anything big would happen to in life."

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