TMS student wins $1,000 for essay submission
English teacher also awarded money toward school supplies for having most essay submissions in state
Eighth-grader Mara Hebert headed to Monday’s school assembly with her fellow Tonganoxie Middle School students planning to hear about accomplishments and other news like any other assembly.
She wasn’t expecting to be one of the students recognized at the event.
Mara was named as the state’s eighth-grade winner in the Learning Quest 529 Education Savings essay contest. She won $1,000 toward her college education. The program is a joint venture between American Century Investments and the state treasurer’s office.
Her reaction to winning the award: “Mainly embarrassed,” Mara said. “Because I don’t like being in front of crowds.”
After getting over being front and center for the assembly, she said she was excited to win the award and wasn’t sure whether her writing would win the top spot.
Scott Gates from the Treasurer’s Office presented Mara with an oversized check and plaque. He also read her essay about Edgar Allan Poe during the assembly.
This year, Kansas students in seventh and eighth grades were asked to provide a creative essay, in 200 words or less, on the topic “If you had the opportunity to choose any person in history to teach a class to you, who would you choose and why would you select the person?”
There were 1,541 essays received from 72 teachers at 67 schools.
One of those teachers, TMS eighth-grade English teacher Kim Woodall, was presented with a check for $529 to go toward school supplies for having the most students submit essays.
Fellow TMS eighth-grade English instructor Debbie Holloway is Mara’s teacher.
She said Mara was deserving of the award.
“She’s a great little writer,” Holloway said. “She’s a good writer.”
Mara said she selected Poe because of his writing.
“I just really admire his writing,” Mara said. “I have his entire collection at home.”
As for where she plans to spend her $1,000, Mara said she’s always wanted to attend Kansas University and earn a degree in education so that she can become a language arts teacher.
Gates said staff from the Treasurer’s Office, as well as American Century officials, judged the essays.
The contest awarded a first-place winner and a runner-up from both seventh and eighth grades, making for four winners total. The other three winning students came from Iola and Olpe.
Some of the essay subjects were Gandhi, teachers, grandparents, Michael Jackson and Justin Bieber, as well as Mark Twain and several other writers. Gates said another applicant selected Helen Keller’s teacher.
He said there was good response in the number of entries this year. And he said he was glad to present money that would be used toward Mara’s college fund.
“We encourage parents to invest,” Gates said about higher education. “Start early. Start young. Invest often. Education is expensive.”