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West Virginia State Treasurer John Perdue recognized two Harrison County student essay contest winners and presented a total of $1,000 to Lumberport Elementary School in Harrison County Tuesday morning as part of the eleventh annual SMART529 “When I Grow Up” essay contest.

Lumberport Elementary kindergarten student Bentley Payne Tonkery and fourth grade student Irissa Earnest are among 15 regional winners in the 2018 contest. As a result, they each won a $500 award for the school totaling $1,000. Winning schools typically use the money to buy new equipment, offer learning incentives or reward students.

“Every year I’m surprised and impressed by the students’ career choices and their ability to describe their goals at such a young age,” Perdue said.

To be selected as a regional winner, Tonkery wrote about becoming a scientist when he grows up. Earnest wrote about becoming an astronomer. Winners were chosen among more than 2,400 entries. With this year’s winners, Lumberport has produced a total of seven regional essay winners since the contest began in 2007.

“I’m thrilled that Lumberport staff recognizes the importance of this contest. Clearly these students are learning that advanced planning, an early start to saving, and dreaming big are what this contest is all about,” Perdue said.

In addition to the $500 cash prize awarded to each winner’s school, each essay contest winner will receive $500 invested into a SMART529 college savings plan.

The students will be individually recognized at a statewide awards ceremony in Charleston in September. At that time, each student will be entered into a random drawing for a chance to win the grand prize, a total of $5,000 invested into a SMART529 account.

SMART529 is West Virginia’s college savings program issued by the West Virginia College Prepaid Tuition and Savings Program Board of Trustees. Treasurer Perdue serves as chairman of the Board. For more information, log onto or

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