Hancock County Student Wins $5,000 Grand Prize in 2023 SMART529 ‘When I Grow Up’ Essay Contest

Statewide Teacher, 15 Regional Student Winners Also Recognized at Culture Center Ceremony

Abigail Miller, who is now in the 5th Grade at A.T. Allison Elementary in Hancock County, was named this year’s $5,000 Grand Prize Winner of the 2023 SMART529 “When I Grow Up” essay contest during a special recognition ceremony Friday at the Culture Center in Charleston.

The annual essay contest’s 15 regional student winners and statewide teacher winner, which were announced earlier this year, along with their families and school officials attended Friday’s awards ceremony to be recognized and read their winning essays.

Miller was one of 15 regional winners of the essay contest and was randomly selected as the grand prize winner during the awards ceremony. In her essay, she wrote about her dream of growing up to become a culinary chemist.

“The When I Grow Up contest is always a great event that brings kids together with their parents to talk about their future career dreams and to start preparing for how they can achieve them,” State Treasurer Riley Moore said. “We always tell people, ‘It’s never too early to start saving for your child’s future,’ and this essay contest helps families focus on their child’s goals. This contest is always an inspiring event, and I congratulate these young children for sharing their dreams.”

This is the 16th year for the annual When I Grow Up essay contest.

More than 3,000 students around the state participated in the contest this year. 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 student winner received $500 to invest into a SMART529 account. The grand prize winner receives an additional $4,500.

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

In addition to the student essays, kindergarten through fifth grade teachers also had the opportunity to compete in the teacher portion of the essay contest. 

This year’s winning teacher – Amanda Coon, a 5th Grade teacher at C.W. Shipley Elementary in Jefferson County – also received a $2,500 cash prize.

This year’s 15 regional student winners, their schools and dream professions are (grades/schools reflect when they entered the contest last winter; they have all moved up a grade for this fall semester):