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Regional winners share in nearly $20,000 in SMART529 savings.

Fifteen West Virginia students are on their way to a brighter future, after winning regional awards in the ninth annual SMART529 “When I Grow Up” essay contest. State Treasurer John Perdue recognized the winners Thursday morning during a ceremony at the West Virginia State Culture Center.

The 15 winning essays were selected out of more than 3,000 entries from all over West Virginia. Each winner received $500 invested into a SMART529 WV Direct account. An additional $4,500 was awarded to Raegan Wood of Raleigh County, our grand prize winner, whose name was selected during a random drawing at the event. Each winning student’s school was also recognized and awarded a $500 cash prize to support school programs.

“I want you all to be successful,” Perdue told the winners. “The best way to guarantee success is by continuing your education after high school.”

The contest gives kindergarten through fifth grade students a chance to share in nearly $20,000 in SMART529 savings for higher education. Three age group winners (Grades K-1, 2-3, 4-5) were judged in each of the five regions, making for a total of 15 winners.

“We are thrilled to partner with Treasurer Perdue once again in promoting college savings in West Virginia,” said Hartford Vice-President Jeff Coghan. “Nothing opens the doors of opportunity like an education.”

2016 Teacher Contest Winner

In addition to the student winners, Ansted Elementary School first grade teacher, Norma Travis, was awarded $2,500 cash for her essay about how she planned to educate children about going to college and saving with the SMART529 program.

“We rely on teachers to emphasize the importance of saving for higher education. I am thrilled to continue the program that will reward them for making a special effort to encourage their students to think beyond high school,” said Perdue.

The “When I Grow Up” student and teacher essay contests are sponsored by the SMART529 College Savings Program, The Hartford and the West Virginia State Treasurer’s Office to promote awareness of SMART529 and the need for high education savings.

Information about this year’s essay contests were made available through, on SMART529’s Facebook page and in the SMART529 program’s school newsletter and 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 Life. Complete information about the SMART529 program contest, including the 2017 “When I Grow Up” essay contest, is available at


2016 “When I Grow Up” Contest Student Winners

Winner’s Name Grade School County Occupation
Jennaleah Toney 1st Maxwell Hill Elementary Raleigh Chef
Raegan Wood 3rd Victory Baptist Academy Raleigh Veterinarian
Lyndzee Metz 4th Straley Elementary Mercer Baker
Genesis Jeffers 1st Geary Elementary Roane Art Teacher
Michael Kliner 3rd Conner Street Elementary Putnam Geneticist
Madison Simons 5th Nitro Elementary Kanawha Artist
Payton Tomes K Johnson Elementary Harrison Store Associate
Makayla Norman 3rd Lumberport Elementary Harrison Rainforest Explorer
Caleb Young 4th Homeschool Marion Business Owner
Nayan Dominguez 1st Spring Mills Primary Berkeley Writer/Illustrator
Kate Colbert 3rd Shepherdstown Elementary Jefferson Geologist
Conner Wolford 4th Homeschool Hampshire Zoologist
Emmett Mick 1st New Manchester Elementary Hancock Ornithologist
Macy Hartung 2nd A.T. Allison Elementary Hancock Architect
Vincent Post IV 5th Emerson Elementary Wood Electrical Engineer

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West Virginia State Treasurer's Office
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