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State Treasurer Riley Moore today announced the grand prize winner of this year’s SMART529 “When I Grow Up” essay contest during an in-person awards ceremony at the Culture Center in Charleston.

The 15 regional student winners and statewide teacher winner, which were announced earlier this year, their families and school officials attended the awards ceremony to be officially recognized and have an opportunity to read their essays.

This year’s grand prize winner and recipient of $5,000 invested in a SMART529 Direct account is Malik Mohammed.

Malik Mohammed, who is now in fourth grade at Maxwell Hill Elementary in Raleigh County, was randomly selected as the grand prize winner during the awards ceremony. Malik wrote about his dream of becoming a Botanist because he is interested in researching photosynthesis to discover better methods of utilizing energy and resources.

"I enjoyed listening to the winners of the essay contest passionately share their future career aspirations,” Treasurer Moore said. “As a father of three young children, I understand how important it is to begin preparing for your child's future as early as possible. For two decades, the SMART529 savings program has helped West Virginia families achieve their goals by offering ways to plan and save for educational expenses."

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.

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. Each regional winner received $500 invested into a SMART529 WV Direct account.

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

In addition to the student winners, Robin Chancey, a fifth-grade teacher at Kenna Elementary in Jackson County, was recognized as the teacher contest winner. She received a $2,500 cash prize for her essay about how she plans to use the contest in her classroom to teach her students about saving for college.

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.

In addition to this essay contest, the Treasurer’s Office also launched a separate 20th Anniversary SMART529 sweepstakes to commemorate the 20th year of the program. Three lucky West Virginia students will have a chance to win one of three $20,000 SMART529 scholarships this fall.

More details on that sweepstakes are available at

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

Visit to watch the livestream video of the awards ceremony.

The regional winners, their schools and their dream professions are:

2022 “When I Grow Up” Contest Student Winners

*Grade levels as of the 2021-2022 school year and time of the contest

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

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West Virginia State Treasurer's Office
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