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Perdue announces $1,200 awards for college to 12 adopted children

By JIM ROSS

The State Journal

CHARLESTON, W.Va.  — Twelve adopted children spread among six families received $1,200 each for their college educations Monday as part of the SMART529 Smart Start Award program. West Virginia Treasurer John Perdue presented the awards during a ceremony at the Clay Center.

The children range from 10 months to 12 years old. They were adopted from the state’s foster care system and were selected by Mission West Virginia’s Frameworks program through a judged application process.

“My wife was a foster child. My wife was adopted by a family that gave her the opportunity of a lifetime. She was able to go to college. It changed her life,” Perdue said before handing out the awards. Each award is invested in the state’s SMART529 account.

“Education opens up the doors of opportunity — doors they never dream about walking through. That’s why I’m so excited about this program,” Purdue said to the families of the children receiving the awards.

“Less than 3 percent of foster kids have an opportunity to go to college. You are helping change that. We’re going to change that together, and we’re going to make a difference.”

Annette Gosnell from Romney was one of the parents at the ceremony. She has three adopted children and one not adopted. One is 19 and attends Blue Ridge Community and Technical College.

“Having one child in college, I know it’s expensive,” she said.

“I tried to start saving a little bit for the children, but it’s hard when you have one in college and three others close in age. I didn’t even know what the amount of the award was until I got here today, and I was pleasantly surprised. It’s definitely going to make a big impact for us. I’ve already talked to someone about how to invest it, and I’ve already had someone offer advice, and I’ve only been here for an hour, so that’s good.”

Perdue started the awards program in 2015 through a partnership with Mission West Virginia. Money is raised through the Smart 5.29-mile run and walk held each May in Charleston’s East End. Last year’s race raised more than $16,000.

The 12 children receiving awards this year bring the total to 31 children receiving a combined $37,200 over three years.

This year’s recipients were three children from a family in Nitro, three from a family in Milton, two from a family in Wheeling, two from Gosnell’s family in Romney, one from Williamstown and one from Charleston.

Gina Joynes, deputy treasurer of communications in Purdue’s office, said the SMART529 program adds $100 for each child who is registered before he or she turns 1 year old. But Perdue wanted to help children who are adopted after they turn 1, so children whose parents open an account in the first year after their adoption also receive an extra $100, she said.

SMART529 is a program of the West Virginia College Prepaid Tuition and Savings Program board of trustees. It has more than 132,000 accounts and investments of more than $2.5 billion. It is open to investors nationwide.

Mission West Virginia is a nonprofit organization that functions as a liaison between adoption agencies, families and foster children through its Frameworks program.

Staff Writer Jim Ross can be reached at 304-395-3483 or email at [email protected]

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