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Student coloring her way to college

March 09, 1997

By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

Staff Writer

FUNKSTOWN - It started out with holiday coloring contests sponsored by local stores.

Family members and friends aware of little Jessica Gonder's skill with crayons were always picking up entry forms for her.

Then a kindergartner at Funkstown Elementary School, Jessica would color them all and choose the best one to submit in hopes of getting first place.

Winning was cool, remembers Jessica, whose favorite prize was a huge Easter basket filled with enough candy and stuffed animals for both herself and little sister Katie.

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But the contests she's winning these days are much cooler, said Jessica, 10, now a fifth-grader with enough first-place awards to fill several scrapbooks.

Her latest win - first place in Maryland for the U.S. Savings Bond 1997 National Student Poster Contest - is her favorite, she said, because it earned her a $1,000 U.S. Savings Bond.

"I like them all, but I like that one the best because of the money," said Jessica, who received the award last month at a reception in Baltimore.

Parents Jim and Dottie Gonder, 7-year-old Katie and Funkstown Principal Rose Pellegrino were there with her.

The state win means Jessica's poster will be included in the "U.S. Savings Bond 1998 Daybook."

She's also entered in the national contest, which could earn her a $1,000, $2,000 or $5,000 U.S. Savings Bond, a three-day trip to Washington, D.C., and a spot for her poster on the daybook's cover.

Two days after the Baltimore trip, Jessica went to Annapolis to claim one of 12 first-place awards in Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening's 1997 Energy Fuels Our Future student poster contest.

The only winner from Western Maryland, Jessica received a $50 U.S. Savings Bond and a Governor's Citation presented by Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

Over the years, Jessica's artwork has won her a nice stash of savings bonds, all earmarked for college, her mother said.

In 1995, Jessica's design for the front of a children's dresser won first place in an international contest co-sponsored by the CARE relief organization and Lexington Furniture Industries, Dottie Gonder said.

She received a $500 U.S. Savings Bond, a trip to CARE headquarters in Atlanta and a prototype of the hand-painted dresser.

That year, Jessica also won first place - and another $500 U.S. Savings Bond - in a national farm safety poster contest sponsored by New Holland North America, her mother said.

Since second grade, Jessica has been supplementing in-school art classes with private lessons.

Still, she said she has no desire to make art her profession.

"If I'm an artist, I don't get to be around animals as much as I want to," said Jessica, whose sights are set on becoming "top veterinarian" at the San Diego Zoo.

The job is perfect, she said, because she loves animals and she'll be able to see them and sketch them there.

Though mother and daughter agree college has to come first, Jessica is hoping she'll end up with a surplus from her winnings.

"If I have any extra money, I'd like to get a Victorian mansion," she said.

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