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Oakdale student wins scholarship in statewide cabbage contest

Transfiguration Catholic School student Michael Merabella poses with his 10-pound cabbage. Photo courtesy of the Merabella family

Michael Merabella knew he had a knack for science class.

Rocks are his favorite part, he said.

But last summer, the Oakdale fourth-grader discovered a new talent — one that produced a week's worth of salad and $1,000 for college.

The Transfiguration Catholic School student recently won the scholarship from the Bonnie Plants Cabbage Program. Each spring, the produce company supplies third grade classes across the country with "O.S. cross" variety cabbage starters, which are known to produce oversized heads. The students have the summer to nurture it into the largest, healthiest one in their class, as deemed by their teacher. Winners are then entered into a statewide drawing for the scholarship in the winter.

Over 12,000 Minnesota students participated, including hundreds from several south Washington County area schools.

"It was unbelievable," said his mom, Ann Merabella. "I listened to (the Bonnie Plants voicemail) two or three times."

Michael's third grade teacher, Elena Dorr, said he's her first student to win since she started entering her classes in the program a few years ago.

"I really like how the program just tries to instill a love of learning and love of gardening for the kids," she said. "And it's a fun project to do during the summer."

Unlike his 20 classmates, some of whom battled bugs or hungry pets, Merabella said his plant didn't have any health scares. He set an alarm to make sure he watered the plant at least twice a day, which he says was the hardest part.

"You had to water it a lot — a lot," Michael said.

By the end of the season, the cabbage swelled to 10 pounds — too heavy for the junior gardener to lift.

With a jumpstart towards his college education, Merabella says he has an idea of what he wants to do later in life:

"I want to be a professional golfer."