MORGANTOWN, W.Va. State Treasurer Riley Moore kicked off the, “2024 When I Grow Up Essay Contest,” at Mountainview Elementary School in Morgantown on Thursday. Moore told the assembly of students that regional winners get $500, and one grand prize winner will receive an additional $4,500.

Regional winners will come from three age groups in five regions and will be invited to the Culture Center to read their work. The regional winners get $500. One grand prize winner will collect an additional $4.500 in a Smart 529 account.

“We do have one of the best programs, and it is a special savings plan created by the legislature two decades ago,” Moore said. “It’s helped thousands of West Virginia children get an education by attending college and trade schools.”

The essays are to be 200 words and express what career the student would like to pursue. Moore encouraged the students to go into detail about why they have made that choice and what they hope to accomplish in that role.

“We’re going to be looking for interesting ideas, but it’s about explaining why you would like to do it, and we’ll also be looking at grammar and composition,” Moore said.

Moore told the students that every essay submitted would be read, and it’s a pleasure to read about the dreams children have for their future. No matter if their choice is being a doctor, lawyer, soccer player, or even, like a previous winner, a fashion designer.

“Your passion and ambition are not only inspiring to me but also to your teachers, classmates, friends, and family,” Moore said. “I know that each of you has a bright future ahead.”

Moore said this is a fun way to get kids to think about what they want to do with their lives and if, in college, a technical or vocational school is the best choice. But starting to save early for college will help these students and their families avoid having to agree to student loans.

“If you want to get going on the path towards a college education, you have to start saving early,” Moore said. “School is getting more expensive; you have to start saving early.”

The Smart 529 program is available to any resident in the state. Once an account is established, other family members can make contributions for holidays and birthdays that will earn interest until the student embarks on college.

“Anybody can start one of these,” Moore said. “You can start one for your nieces or nephews; your grandchildren; any family member can start one of these.”

For the officials rules of the contest click here.