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Entries must be postmarked by Friday, February 24, 2017 to qualify

West Virginia State Treasurer John Perdue and representatives from The Hartford gathered at Johnson Elementary School in Bridgeport today to announce the 2017 SMART529 When I Grow Up student and teacher essay contest. The annual essay contest gives students around the state the chance to win up to $5,000 in higher education expenses. Teachers have an opportunity to win a $2,500 cash prize.

Treasurer Perdue inspired students at Bridgeport's Johnson Elementary, where he kicked off this year's When I Grow Up contest.
“Every year we travel to a new elementary school to launch this contest and talk about the importance of post-secondary education,” said Treasurer Perdue. “This contest has grown into a tradition for many families and, for me, it is an essential tool to help stress the importance of saving for education beyond high school.”


Celebrating its tenth year, the popular contest gives kindergarten through fifth grade students a share in nearly $20,000 in prizes annually.

Entries will be judged among five regions in three age groups (K-1, 2-3, 4-5), making for a total of 15 regional winners. The 15 winners will be awarded $500 invested into SMART529 college savings accounts and will be invited to an event in the fall where one grand prize winner will be randomly selected to receive a total of $5,000 in SMART529 scholarship money. Each winner’s school will also receive a $500 cash award.

Over the past ten years, more than $100,000 has been invested in SMART529 scholarships for students around the state and more than $80,000 in prize money has been awarded to teachers and schools.

The Treasurer often tells students across the state that""Nothing opens the doors of opporitunity like education.""
Payton Tomes, now a first grade student at Johnson Elementary, was one of the 15 regional winners in last year’s contest.


The When I Grow Up essay contest allows students to submit, in 100 words or less, an essay that explains what they want to be when they grow up. Entries will be judged on originality, creativity and the importance of post-secondary education.

Teachers of grades K through 5 also have the opportunity to compete in the teacher portion of the essay contest. This year’s winning teacher will receive a $2,500 cash prize.

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

Entry forms for both students and teachers are available at In addition, entry forms will be available at elementary schools throughout the state. The deadline for entry form and essay submissions is Friday, February 24, 2017.

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.

For more information on SMART529 or the When I Grow Up essay contest go to For media inquiries, please contact Gina Joynes at 304.341.0758 or George Manahan at 304.546.6174.

The Treasury does not collect state taxes. Visit the The West Virginia State Tax Department for assistance.

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