Know a budding writer? WV’s “When I Grow Up” essay contest could land them $5,000 for college savings!

05 January 2024- State Treasurer Riley Moore yesterday kicked off the statewide 2024 SMART529 “When I Grow Up” student and teacher essay contest at Mountainview Elementary School in Morgantown.

The annual essay contest gives students the chance to win up to $5,000 in SMART529 savings for higher education. Teachers have an opportunity to win a $2,500 cash prize.

“The goal of our contest is to inspire children to begin thinking about potential career opportunities and explore how they can achieve their dreams by attending college or a trade school,” Treasurer Moore said. “Last year, more than 3,000 students from across the state participated in the contest, working with their families and educators to discover job pathways that spark their interests and can lead them to a fulfilling future career.”

In its 17th year, the SMART529 When I Grow Up essay contest gives kindergarten through fifth-grade students a chance to win both SMART529 savings for higher education and cash prizes for their schools. Essay 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.

State Treasurer Riley Moore joined fourth and fifth-grade students to launch his Office’s annual SMART529 “When I Grow Up” student and teacher essay at Mountainview Elementary School in Morgantown on Thursday, January 4.

The regional breakdown is as follows:

  • Region I – Beckley/Bluefield area
  • Region II – Charleston/Huntington area
  • Region III – Clarksburg/Weston area
  • Region IV – Martinsburg area
  • Region V – Wheeling area

The 15 winners will be awarded $500 invested into SMART529 college savings accounts. Out of the regional winners, one grand prize winner will be randomly selected to receive a total of $5,000 toward a SMART529 account during an awards ceremony this fall at the state Culture Center in Charleston. Each winner’s school will also receive a $500 cash award.

Teachers of grades kindergarten through fifth 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.

The SMART529 When I Grow Up essay contest allows students to submit, in 200 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.

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 forms and essay submissions is Friday, February 23, 2024.