We Heart: Arantza Peña Popo’s Google Doodle Honoring Her Mom

Arantza Peña Popo is an 18-year-old from Georgia, the valedictorian of her high school class, an artist of 15 years—and, most recently, the U.S. Winner of the Doodle for Google contest.

The annual national contest, 11 years running, encourages students from grades K-12 to submit an art piece to be featured as the Google Doodle of the day; the most common idea, Popo says, of the over 200,000 submissions, is drawing something about an invention or a significant figure. 

Popo decided to do something different. Her watercolor, first unveiled as the winner of Doodle for Google by the Today Show late Monday, honors her mother. The doodle, aptly titled “Once You Get It, Give It Back,” depicts a framed portrait of her mother holding her as an infant, resembling a real painting that hangs in their family room of her mother and sister. An adult Popo is painted standing in front of the portrait, caring for her mother in a converse reflection of the portrait that hangs above them.

“It was just a chance to thank her for all she’d done,” Popo explained to USA Today. “Sometimes I think of the cost of raising a child all the way to adulthood—and since I know I can’t instantly pay my mom back hundreds of thousands of dollars, I can at least pay her back in a sincere doodle.”

For her winning doodle, Popo will receive a $50,000 technology package for her high school and a $30,000 college scholarship. Popo plans to put the money toward her time at the University of Southern California, where she will begin her freshman year in the fall. 

Popo and her mother at Google HQ. (Photo courtesy of Google)

This is not Popo’s first foray into the creative arts. The teen has entered several art contests over the years, and a passion for equality and diversity has fueled her work.

In 2017, Popo won the art contest “Portraying the Undocumented Experience,” hosted by the Latin American Association in Georgia; Popo, an immigrant from Columbia herself, said that the piece she submitted was meant to demonstrate “how in both places where immigrants try to find some kind of refuge, they seem to be rejected.” Similar themes emerged from her winning piece in the 2018 Georgia Congressional Art Contest.

In a video submission for the 2019 Georgia United Scholarship, the then-senior described her dream of creating a non-profit that provides sustainable, biodegradable packaging design to minority businesses for free; of teaching free arts classes to younger students; and of painting murals to “help beautify disadvantaged neighborhoods and communities.” 

Photo courtesy of Google

The future holds many possibilities for the young artist, but one thing is for sure: Popo will continue to honor and support her mother and her community. “This community has given me so much love and support,” she said in the video announcing her Google victory. “It’s time to give it back.”

About

Willow Taylor Chiang Yang is a current summer intern for Ms. Magazine, which perhaps gives an idea of her feminist leanings. In addition to being an outspoken women's rights advocate and a proud, politic-loving Asian American, she is the Editor-in-Chief of her school newspaper, her grade's Student Council representative and a devotee of convoluted sentence structure. She was also a Senior Project Editor for the Since Parkland Project, and appeared on ABC7's Midday Live.