'Why I Want to Go to College' Writing Contest 2012
Treasurer Stenberg Selects 12 Winners in 10th Annual Essay Contest for 7th, 8th Graders

State Treasurer Don Stenberg has selected 12 winners in the 10th annual “Why I Want to Go to College” essay contest for seventh and eighth graders sponsored by the Nebraska State Treasurer’s Office and the Omaha Storm Chasers baseball team. The essay contest winners will be recognized May 20 at Werner Park in Papillion before the Storm Chasers’ game with the Tacoma Rainiers.

A total of 679 essays were received in the 2012 contest. Initial judging was completed by students and faculty in the College of Education at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. “We congratulate the winners and thank all the students who took part in this year’s contest and took time to reflect and clearly articulate the reasons why they want to go to college,” Treasurer Stenberg said.

“Students displayed a depth of understanding of the value of higher education in their essays. While many wrote that they wanted to go to college to get good jobs that would enable them and their families to live comfortably, others said they were motivated to go to college to take fascinating classes with interesting instructors, to experience new surroundings, and to learn to work with others. They also said they wanted to learn to live and make decisions on their own, to make their parents proud, to make the world better, and even to play baseball or volleyball,” Treasurer Stenberg said.

Four first-place winners each will receive a $1,000 contribution to a Nebraska college savings plan; four second-place winners will each receive a $500 contribution to a Nebraska college savings plan; and four third-place winners will each receive a $300 Nebraska college savings plan contribution. As in previous years, three winners were selected from each of Nebraska’s three Congressional Districts and three winners were selected from outside the state.

The Nebraska State Treasurer’s Office is the trustee of the Nebraska Educational Savings Trust (NEST), Nebraska’s 529 College Savings Plan, which offers four college savings plans for investors not only in Nebraska, but across the United States. First National Bank of Omaha is the program manager.

The 12 winners and their hometowns and schools are listed here:

1st Congressional District

First:Andrew SimpsonBreeze Hill AcademyWayne, NE
Second:Kathryn (Kate) ScanlanPlatteview CentralSpringfield, NE
Third:Madison SwannScott Middle School Lincoln, NE

2nd Congressional District

First:Kara RuffcornWestside Middle SchoolOmaha, NE
Second:Shayla AndersenRussell Middle SchoolOmaha, NE
Third:Taylor HoganMcMillan Magnet SchoolOmaha, NE

3rd Congressional District

First:Matthew PekarekHigh Plains CommunityStromsburg, NE
Second:Molly LambertChambers Public SchoolEwing, NE
Third:John HusmannCatholic High SchoolKearney, NE


First:Madeline NichollsChandler Preparatory AcademyChandler, AZ
Second:Lauren HynesLebanon Junior High SchoolLebanon, MO
Third:David GutierrezAll Saints Catholic SchoolHayward, CA

Excerpts from the winning entries:

Andrew Simpson, Wayne, NE, first place, 1st Congressional District:

“As an American and a Nebraskan, I believe that both our country and our state’s heritage is a history of its people striving to improve themselves through work and learning…Even in our great state of Nebraska, the early settlers built colleges and universities, the most well-known being the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I believe that college is a present day way to improve ourselves and our lives.”

Kara Ruffcorn, Omaha, first place, 2nd Congressional District:

“People who have faith in themselves are the ones who achieve their goals. My most important goal is to obtain a college education, which will allow me to gain the education and skills I will need to give back to society and help underprivileged people...By acquiring a college education, I will make my family proud and follow my dreams of being the first person in my immediate family to have a degree.”

Shayla Andersen, Omaha, second place, 2nd Congressional District:

“Going to college, I will finally be able to see the world and what it holds for me. Think of it like being in a giant snow globe, and the snow flurries are forever up and moving, and you can’t see the outside world. But then when you get the opportunity to go to college, the snow stops, and falls, and the world all of a sudden becomes clear.”

Matthew Pekarek, Stromsburg, NE, first place, 3rd Congressional District:

”Meeting new people is an excellent reason to strive to attend college…In college there are people from all over the country, and, in some cases, the rest of the world...If there is any reason for going to college, having lifelong friends should be the most important.”

Madeline Nicholls, Chandler, AZ, first place, Out-of-State:

“I fully understand that knowledge does not just come from a four-year high school education. Knowledge comes from reading books, listening to others, and surrounding yourself with people who have encountered life changing experiences. Wouldn’t you agree that college is the perfect place to surround yourself with people who are experts in their fields?”

About NEST

NEST is a tax-advantaged 529 college savings plan and provides four plans to help make saving for college simple and affordable: NEST Direct College Savings Plan, the NEST Advisor College Savings Plan, the TD Ameritrade 529 College Savings Plan, and the State Farm College Savings Plan. The Nebraska State Treasurer serves as Program Trustee. First National Bank of Omaha serves as Program Manager, and all investments are approved by the Nebraska Investment Council. Families nationwide are saving for college using Nebraska’s 529 College Savings Plans, which have more than 261,000 accounts, including 84,000 in Nebraska. Visit NEST529.com and treasurer.nebraska.gov for more information.

Investments Are Not FDIC Insured* · No Bank, State or Federal Guarantee · May Lose Value
*Except the Bank Savings Individual Investment Option
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