Looking at Sonia Pereira sitting behind a small table in the foyer of the Webster Parish Library, you wouldn't think the laughing, yet calm, teen-ager had just accomplished something of which most people only dream.
Sonia, a 15-year-old Minden High School student, just published her first book, "The Railroad Changed My Life."
Sonia was in an Expanded Horizon class taught by Debbie Cooper and was given an assignment to write an essay for the Daughter's of the American Revolution (DAR).
The essay could be on one of two topics: the impact of Chinese immigrants building the railroad from the West or the impact of Irish immigrants building the railroad from the East.
Sonia chose to write about Chinese immigrants.
"It just seemed interesting, and I wanted to do an article about it," Sonia said.
Her essay won first place in Webster Parish and first place in the State of Louisiana.
DAR, which is a non-profit, non-political volunteer women's service organization dedicated to promoting patriotism, preserving American history and securing its future through better education for children, also presented her with an award for her achievements.
"Then I decided to build on the article and have it published," Sonia said.
Sonia and her family knew of a publishing company (Bush Publishing) based in Oklahoma through their church, Living Word Worship Center where Sonia's mother Wendy Garland works as the Pastoral Secretary.
"We contacted them and they published it for me," Sonia said, as if publishing a book was something common. And for someone like Sonia, it may seem common.
Sonia was born in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia and moved to America with her mother at the age of six. Aside from winning the DAR essay awards, Sonia has also won Student of the Year twice. She has won numerous awards in 4-H and Science Fair, as well as academic honors in differing subjects. She has won the Feist Weiller Cancer Center award for Outstanding Science Project and the Timmons award for Outstanding Science Project. Sonia has also volunteered at Meadowview Nursing Home and worked as a Junior Counselor for the Redeemed Ranch kid's camp. She also participates in theater and plays the violin.
"I am so proud of her achievements," said Sonia's mother, Wendy Garland. "She has always had her head on her shoulders and I am very blessed to call her my daughter. Her father Sanderson Pereira, who lives in Australia, our family back home in Malaysia and our family and friends in Minden are extremely excited and proud of her many achievements."
Sonia developed an interest in writing during the second grade when her teacher, Mrs. Gulley, taught her about sentence parts. While writing is something she is obviously good at, Sonia doesn't know if she wants to pursue writing as a career.
"Writing a book was just something on my list of things to accomplish," she said about a possible career as a writer. Sonia's true ambition lies somewhere in science, although she hasn't fully decided what area she would like to join. For now, she wants to focus on succeeding academically.
Sonia held a book signing at the Minden Public Library for "The Railroad Changed My Life" on Monday and had a great turnout of supportive people.
"We had a great turn out at the book signing and we are looking forward to her next academic adventure," said Mrs. Garland.
For those interested in purchasing one of Sonia's books, contact Mrs. Garland at 393-2528. "The Railroad Changed My Life" can soon be purchased in stores and on-line.