Press Releases

Grand Prize Winner to be Announced at September Culture Center Ceremony

State Treasurer Riley Moore today announced the 15 regional student winners and statewide teacher winner of this year’s SMART529 “When I Grow Up” essay contest.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of the “When I Grow Up” essay contest, and the 20th anniversary of West Virginia’s SMART529 savings plan.

“This annual essay contest is a great way for parents to sit down and talk with their children about the future and what they want to be when they grow up,” Treasurer Moore said. “It inspires kids to dream and start thinking about how they want to accomplish those dreams.”

The annual essay contest asks students in kindergarten through fifth grades to write an essay about what they want to be when they grow up. The teacher portion of the contest asks elementary school teachers to submit an essay about how they would use the contest in the classroom.

The winners are being announced just ahead of national 529 Day, an annual celebration on May 29 (5/29) that raises awareness for 529 college savings plans around the country.

Each regional winner will receive $500 invested into a SMART529 account. An additional $4,500 will be awarded to a grand prize winner, who will be randomly selected during a reception and ceremony Sept. 16 at the Culture Center in Charleston.

Each regional winner’s school will also be awarded a $500 cash prize to support school programs.

More than 2,800 students around the state participated in the contest. Essays from three age groups (grades K-1, 2-3, and 4-5) were judged in each of the five geographic regions, for a total of 15 regional winners.

The winners, their schools and their dream professions are:

2021 “When I Grow Up” Contest Student Winners

Region One:

Benjamin Russell, 1st Grade at Chapmanville Primary School, Logan County – Primatologist

Malik Mohammed, 3rd Grade at Maxwell Hill Elementary, Raleigh County – Botanist

Jersey Gruskievich, 5th Grade at Talcott Elementary, Summers County – Social Worker

Region Two:

Aletheia Goodwin, Kindergarten Home School Student, Cabell County – Zookeeper

Hayden Vernon, 3rd Grade at Point Harmony Elementary, Kanawha County – Marine Biologist

Emma Elizabeth Bonar, 5th Grade at Prichard Elementary, Wayne County – Children’s Counselor

Region Three:

Alexander Ammons, Kindergarten at East Dale Elementary, Marion County – Geologist

Sam Goodwin, 3rd Grade at Eastwood Elementary, Monongalia County – Seismologist

Silas Michael Scott, 4th Grade at Nutter Fort Intermediate, Harrison County – Architect

Region Four:

Ethan Smith, 1st Grade at Driswood Elementary, Jefferson County – Structural Collapse Rescue Technician

Ellie Eisenbrey, 3rd Grade Home School Student, Randolph County – Activist & Engineer

Weston Higson, 4th Grade at Frankfort Intermediate, Mineral County – Fisheries Biologist

Region Five:

Kambri Neill, Kindergarten at St. Mary Catholic School, Wood County – Veterinarian

Gianna Capri White, 3rd Grade at Our Lady of Peace School, Marshall County – Surgical Oncologist

Lacey Pauley, 5th Grade at Steenrod Elementary, Ohio County – Marine Biologist

Kindergarten through fifth grade teachers also had the opportunity to compete in the teacher portion of the essay contest. This year’s winning teacher will receive a $2,500 cash prize.

2022 ‘When I Grow Up’ Statewide Teacher Winner:

Robin Chancey, 5th Grade, Kenna Elementary, Jackson County

The winners, their families and school officials have been invited to an awards ceremony at the state Culture Center in Charleston on Sept. 16 to be officially recognized and have an opportunity to read their essays. The grand prize winner will then be randomly selected at the ceremony.

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

SMART529 is a qualified tuition program issued by the Board of Trustees of the West Virginia College and Jumpstart Savings Programs and administered by Hartford Funds. Complete information about SMART529 and the “When I Grow Up” essay contest is available at

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

West Virginia State Treasurer's Office
1900 Kanawha Boulevard
Capitol Complex Building #1, Room E-145
Charleston, West Virginia 25305
304-558-5000 Toll Free: 800-422-7498
Hours: 8am-5pm (ET)

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