Devin Galloway likes pasta.
And with his $125 gift certificate to the Olive Garden in Reno, he plans to treat his friends and parents to Italian food on or near his July 20 birthday.
"My birthday is coming up, and we're going to go to dinner," he said.
Devin, the oldest of six children in a Dayton family, received the gift certificate and a $500 savings bond for being the nationwide eighth-grade winner of an essay contest sponsored by the Olive Garden.
"I received a letter in the mail and had no clue who it was from, and it said I won," he said. "I had a hard time believing it."
More than 8,500 essays were sent in for the Olive Garden's Pasta Tales contest. A winner was chosen from each grade level. The essay topic was "What do you like most about living in the United States, and why?"
Over the course of two days, Devin, 13, wrote a one-page essay.
"I talked about all the opportunities we have to develop an education," he said. "I like learning about new things. It bothers me when I don't know something."
He is the first person in Northern Nevada to win the essay contest.
Devin moved with his mom, Lesa, and dad, Ron, from Utah two years ago. The parents home-school their children. Lesa saw an advertisement in the Nevada Appeal about the Pasta Tales contest.
"It was a school assignment," she said. "I needed a writing assignment for that day. We try to do different types of writing, different creative writing."
Devin has been home-schooled since third grade. His brother Ethan also participated in the contest.
"We received many exceptional and diverse essays this year," said Steve Coe, national spokesman for Olive Garden. "These young writers were expressive and passionate about what they like most about living in the United States."
In June, Devin went to the Dayton Courthouse and had his picture taken with Olive Garden general manager Ron Ward and Lyon County Board of Commissioners Chairman Bob Milz.
"It was pretty neat," Devin said. "Because the county commissioner is kind of in charge of all of Dayton and kind of like the mayor.
"The manager from the Olive Garden was one of the nicest people I've ever met. He was very outgoing."
Lesa may have her children enter the contest again next year.
"I think (contests like this are) valuable, whether students are home-schooled or not," she said. "It's valuable that you see businesses taking an interest in education because that seems to be dying out."
She, too, was surprised, when Devin told her he had won the eighth-grade category.
"I think he's doing better work," she said. "Obviously, he had what they were looking for."
n Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1219.