10-year-old wins spot on Sun-Maid’s ‘Board of Imagination’

Samuel Loza wins a $5,000 scholarship, and his school gets a year’s worth of Sun-Maid snacks.

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Samuel Loza, 10, stands near the front of St. Helen Catholic School, in the Ukrainian Village neighborhood, Tuesday, March 30, 2021. Samuel is a finalist for Sun-Maid’s first board of imagination.

Samuel Loza, 10, of Ukrainian Village, won a spot on Sun-Maid’s first Board of Imagination.

Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

After submitting videos and waiting for over 200,000 votes to be counted, the news is in: 10-year-old Samuel Loza will get the opportunity to create new stories and snacks with Sun-Maid.

As one of six inaugural Board of Imagination members, Samuel will learn about Sun-Maid’s history as a growers’ cooperative, how raisins are made, sustainability practices and how Sun-Maid turns whole fruit raisins into snacks. He’ll also provide input to guide future decisions (like snacks!) at the company.

Samuel could barely contain his excitement, singing and dancing as he answered questions Friday, but he admitted feeling anxious that he wouldn’t make the board.

“I was nervous because I had some really tough competition,” he said.

The finalists in the contest, all children between 6 and 12 years old from across the country, were asked to tell a short story about a sour watermelon raisin and how it came to be. In their videos, the kids also presented their innovative snack ideas and tell voters a bit about themselves. The videos are under three minutes, and each was filmed unrehearsed — meaning, the kids are making up the story on the spot.

Samuel’s winning story took voters on the journey of a raisin named Jack who gets knocked into a “sacred, sour” river, and the only thing that wakes him up is watermelon juice. Jack becomes a sour watermelon raisin destined to fight evil and defend the “little innocent fruits.”

Despite his fears, Samuel says he believes the creativity of his story resonated with voters and led to him winning. His father, Oscar, said this was also a great lesson in watching how information spreads on the internet.

“After posting the initial story announcing Samuel as a finalist on community Facebook pages, he was able to see how quickly the likes came in and how fast it spread,” the elder Loza said. “We’re always trying to teach the presence of social media.”

Each child on the board will receive $5,000 to use toward college tuition, and their school will receive $5,000. Sun-Maid will also give each kids’ school a year’s supply of snacks. For Samuel, this means his school, St. Helen’s Catholic School, is also winning something a little sweet.

Grateful for the support from his family, school and whoever voted for him, Samuel says he can’t wait to create snacks “for everyone to enjoy and love.”

The first virtual board meeting is April 14, and Samuel says he’s excited for his new job to start.

“It’s my first job at the age of 10, and it’s going to look great on my résumé.”

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