Carmel fifth-grader wins national Olive Garden essay contest

Posted Aug. 27, 2012, at 3:27 p.m.

CARMEL, Maine — Creating a community garden, orchard and greenhouse to grow herbs at school is something local fifth-grade student Noelle Shamlian would do to help fellow students learn about gardening.

“More kids than we think don’t know where their food comes from,” the 10-year-old wrote to win the 16th annual Olive Garden’s Pasta Tales essay contest for fifth-graders. “One of the reasons I want my community school to have a garden is so people my age can know where their food comes from and how to cook it. It’s an awe-inspiring subject!”

For the contest, Shamlian had to answer the question: “If you were given $5,000 to support education in your local community, how would you use it and why?”

Her entry was one of 29,000 essays submitted, her mother, Wendy Smith, said Monday.

“Noelle is actually homeschooled and instead of doing boring writing assignments, we looked for contests instead,” she said. “She’s really into writing. Jamie Oliver, the British chef, was a little bit of an influence to her.”

Oliver’s Food Revolution, which stresses fresh foods instead of those that are processed, along with her mom and her grandmother, all contributed to Shamlian’s essay idea, the youngster said.

“I guess it was just kind of in my head because I was with my grandmother and we garden, and my mom and I, we garden,” Shamlian said. “We harvested it, we weeded it, we planted it and sometime if we have big portions of vegetables or fruit, we give them away. That’s how I got my idea.”

Shamlian, who said she wants to be an author when she grows up, was awarded a $500 U.S. Savings Bond and a $125 gift card to Olive Garden for her winning entry for fifth-graders nationwide. Winners for grades one through 12, as well as a grand prize winner, were announced last month.

The young writer and her siblings also took part in Maine Lemonade Day, a program designed to teach children how to start and operate their own lemonade stand business, and won free passes to The Maine Jump, her mom said.

Shamlian, who turned 11 shortly after winning the Olive Garden contest, decided to share her winnings with her friends.

“Noelle took her friends to The Maine Jump for her birthday party, and then on to the Olive Garden for dinner,” Smith said.

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