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State Honoree

Sonia Nagala

North Dakota

Sonia Nagala, 18, of Oakes, N.D., a senior at Oakes High School, composed music to a poem written by her sister about the 9/11 terrorist attacks, recorded the resulting song on CDs, and sold them to raise more than $10,000 for the families of firefighters and policemen who lost their lives on that tragic day. “September 11th invoked many feelings in me, including anger and sorrow,” said Sonia. “More than anything, however, I wanted to prove that we Americans must stand together at this difficult time.” After her older sister wrote an inspiring poem about the tragic events, Sonia, who has been composing music since age 9, decided to set the poem to music. She spent several days working out the melody, then arranged a four-part chorale ensemble with a piano accompaniment. Sonia recruited eight members of her high school choir to sing the song, asked her choir teacher to direct, held practice sessions, and contacted a local company to make a recording. She then designed a cover for the CD, promoted the CD through the media, and asked local businesses to sell it. Over the next four months, Sonia sold nearly 2,500 copies of the song – “This Is Our Place” – and last March presented a $10,118 check for the Twin Towers Fund to a New York City firefighter who lost his entire squadron in the attack. “I know that I will never hear a ‘thank you’ that meant so much,” said Sonia.