CHARLESTON — The WV Treasury’s SMART529 essay contest, “When I Grow Up,” recognized regional winners last week in a Facebook Live event, including 2 Hampshire County students, Augusta Elementary’s Makinley Shaffer and Romney Elementary’s Brooklyn Maxwell.

“It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t recognize these student achievements in person this year, but we hope that the students and their parents enjoyed having their extended family and friends take part in the celebration with a live online event,” said WV State Treasurer John Perdue.

This was the 13th year of the contest, and it saw more participation than ever before with 4,662 students around the state submitting entries. There were 15 regional winners, including Makinley and Brooklyn. At the virtual event, each regional winner was given the opportunity to read their essays for teachers, friends, and family watching from home.

In normal years, Perdue recognizes the “When I Grow Up” regional winners at an awards ceremony in Charleston at the WV State Culture Center, as well as during spring events at each winning student’s school. Of course, both opportunities to recognize these students in person were canceled due to the pandemic.

“Our celebration may look a little different this year, but these students’ achievements, and the message that goes along with the ‘When I Grow Up’ contest are just as important,” Perdue said. “We want to encourage children to set a goal for an education beyond high school and make people aware of the benefits of saving with a SMART529 education savings account.”

The randomly selected grand prizewinner this year was Piper Carmen of Geary Elementary School in Roane County. Piper will receive a total of $5,000 invested in a SMART529 Direct account. Makinley, a 5th grader, attended the virtual event and read her essay, “Pimples!” aloud to the other regional winners and anyone who tuned into the celebration.

“When I grow up, I want to be a dermatologist and help people take care of their skin,” Makinley read. “I don’t get grossed out by popping pimples and ruptured cysts with mashed potato-like drainage. After all, who wouldn’t want to sit around and pop pimples all day?”

Brooklyn, a 1st grader, wrote in her essay that she wanted to be a landscape architect.

“I want to show people where to plant seeds. I want to show people how to plant trees,” the essay read. “I will read so I know how plants grow. It will be fun to be a landscape architect.”

Information about this year’s essay contests were made available online, on social media, in SMART529’s school newsletter and through direct mail publications. SMART529 is a qualified tuition program issued by the West Virginia Prepaid College Tuition and Savings Program Board of Trustees and administered by Hartford Funds. Complete information about SMART529 and the “When I Grow Up” essay contest is available at www.SMART529.com.

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