In an evening ceremony on Monday, May 23, the Oregon College Savings Plan presented 25 children in the Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia Northwest program with a huge gift: each child received a $1,000 college savings accounts. The awards were the result of a recent competition, the Start Something College Savings Advantage, designed to help Big Brothers Big Sisters families realize their children’s full potential and start thinking about college.
The competition, which ran from January 10 through March 31, 2011, invited children in grades 4-9 in the Oregon Big Brothers Big Sisters program to share what they hope to achieve after college. The children, known in the program as Little Brothers and Sisters, were encouraged to work with their Big Brothers or Sisters to submit an entry in a creative format of choice, such as an essay, poem, drawing or video.
More than 80 children entered the competition, with entries ranging from essays to artwork to videos. Tonight's winners were surrounded by loved ones and their "Bigs" or mentors. The winners included Hibo Abtidon, Jackie Agtay, Pedro Carrera, Ali DeFrang, Steven Denton, Caroline Fletcher, Ruben Guzman-Valero, Shandeigh Hastings, Creslin Hauck, Abram Hernandez, Samantha Jenkins-Lopez, Aryn Lawson, Shawn Lemkau, Sophia Martin, Daniella Martinez, Jamielynn Mortenson, Coyla Munson, Christopher Nguyen, Brandy Parks, Jasmin Perez-Negron, Kelvyn Blanco Siguac , Skylar Spinner, Nahshon Tirado, Ezekiel Watts and Zaria Wilkerson.
“We were blown away by the quality of entries that came in,” said Michael Parker, Executive Director of the Oregon 529 College Savings Network. “It underscores our belief that every child in Oregon deserves a chance to go to college, and we’re honored that we can help by awarding these accounts.”
In addition to the savings account, the winners each received a plaque and a congratulatory handshake by Big Brothers Big Sisters Columbia Northwest CEO Lynn Thompson, Michael Parker, and Mohan Nair, Big Brothers Big Sisters board member and Chief Innovation Officer of Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oregon.
For most families, saving enough to pay for the costs of higher education can seem overwhelming. The Oregon College Savings Plan works to educate the public that with good planning, funding a college education can be easier to achieve than one might think. Starting with small investments can amount to a big difference when it comes time for children to consider college.
The mission of Big Brothers Big Sisters is to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever. By sharing experiences, celebrating accomplishments, and listening to a child's concerns, a Big Brother or Sister has been shown to make a significant and lasting difference in a child’s life.
Mr. Parker announced that the two organizations will partner again next year for a similar contest.