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Tomoyo Miki, a third-grader at Willow Ridge Elementary in the Sweet Home School District, recently placed first in the 2001 Disabilities Awareness Creative Writing Contest sponsored by the New York State Commission on Quality of Care for the Mentally Disabled.

Her essay was written to this year's theme, "What have you learned from a person with a disability?"

Tomoyo, 8, chose to write about classmate Joey Oishei, who has Williams syndrome, a rare genetic condition known to cause heart and circulatory problems, as well as mental retardation and facial abnormalities.

Her winning essay was on display last month in the north lobby of the Empire State Plaza in Albany. She was also honored at a luncheon at the Executive Mansion earlier this month. At the event, Tomoyo was given an award and presented with a $150 check.

In the essay, she writes about the enjoyable times she has spent with Joey and his fun-loving personality. She also writes that she and Joey are both unique because she was born in Japan and has lived in America for only three years.

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