Crystal Smiles-Tharp and Shannon Smiles-Tharp celebrate a college savings fund award with Treasurer Perdue and children Austin, 18 months, and Cameron Smiles-Tharp, 5.
State Treasurer John Perdue and Frameworks officials on Monday presented a collective $8,400 in college funds to children of adopted families.
The seven children, representing five families, received $1,200 each during an award luncheon at The Clay Center. Treasurer Perdue presented opening remarks.
“We couldn’t be more pleased to do this,” Treasurer Perdue said. “I understand the challenges these kids face. It’s not easy and the ground on which they begin life is shaky, to say the least.”
The funds will be deposited in a SMART529 account for each child. SMART529 is West Virginia’s officially sanctioned college savings program, with special tax advantages for all state residents who invest.
Frameworks, Inc. is a division of Mission West Virginia and serves as a liaison between adoption agencies and kids looking for homes. The seven children are between the ages of two and eight. They were all placed in adoption with the help of Frameworks.
The entire $8,400 was raised in May during the SMART5.29K run/walk charity event in Charleston.
Students were chosen based on essays written by their parents. Parents Crystal Smiles-Tharp and Shannon Smiles-Tharp wrote that “Education is important for all individuals but children that have been in the foster care system in West Virginia have had to face a troubling time that one would only wish to take away. Given an opportunity to attend higher education is opening a door that they may have never seen before.”
The Tharps had two children awarded money, 18-month-old Austin Smiles-Tharp and five-year-old Cameron Smiles-Tharp. They live in Jefferson County.
Kyleigh Weikle, 5, and Ivan, 8, of Monroe County listen in on how college savings can change their lives.
Another essay, submitted by parents Stephanie and Timothy Adkins, reads “Statistics show that 66% of high school graduates go on to college and 59% obtain a degree. Children who have been in foster care paint a much bleaker picture - only 10% go to college and 3% obtain a degree. We have no control over the circumstances foster children have faced prior to their removal from their biological home, but we do have control over what happens next. There needs to be a concentrated effort to provide stability and instill a sense of self-worth that will allow them to believe in themselves and their abilities.” The couple’s child is three-year-old Ethan. The family lives in Lincoln County.
Parents Christie and David Robertson wrote, “If awarded this Smart 529 plan, I hope to grow this by contributing anything that we can and having relatives who want to contribute so that when my children get ready for college, they won't have to worry about student loan debt. I currently have student loan debt and I don't want that for my children. I want them to be able to enter the workforce without the burden of debt hanging over their heads before they even get their lives started.” The Robertsons had two children awarded funds, Jayden, 4, and David, 6. The family lives in Wayne County.
Kyleigh Weikle, 5, from Monroe County, and brother Ivan, 8, also received funds. Their parents are Ann and David Weikle. Rounding out the winners is two-year-old Hayden Goodrich of Wayne County. Goodrich was accompanied Monday by parents Tiffany and Aaron Goodrich.
Included in Monday’s festivities was lunch; an opportunity to go through the center’s STEAM Works Exhibit; a Build a Bear session; and a trip to the Ice Cream Sundae Bar.