Kaimana Lum won first place for her division in the annual Merced County Office of Education Writing Festival.
She received her award during a ceremony at the Merced Mall. The fourth grader wrote about her frightening experience during the earthquake.
She and her sister moved to Merced County to stay with relatives after the disaster.
They attended Peterson Elementary for the past year and have learned to speak fluent English.
"When I got the award I felt so happy," Lum said.
More than one thousand students from 37 different Merced County schools received writing awards this week.
Many of the essays and poems will remain on display at the Merced Mall through Saturday.