For the parents of 8-year-old Maxine Petersen, saving money for their daughter’s education just became a little less stressful.
“Strangers are always a little awkward but strangers handing you money is nice. There’s also the long-term stress relief of not having to worry so much about the money that we’ll need for her to go to college which is certainly nice,” said Carl Petersen, Maxine’s father.
Alaska 529 held its annual $25K Giveaway Thursday, and this year’s winner was third grader Maxine Petersen, a student at Kax̱dig̱oowu Héen Elementary. Petersen was surprised by her parents Carl Petersen and Samantha Jenkins, as well as Alaska 529 and staff at a school assembly. This marks the first time anyone has received the scholarship within Southeast Alaska.
Director of finance Buffy Kuiper said that every year, Alaskans who contribute half of their Permanent Fund dividend to their Alaska 529 account when applying for the PFD are automatically entered to win a $25,000 scholarship account. This is the 13th year of the annual giveaway, sponsored by the state’s education savings plan and funded by the Education Trust of Alaska, according to a news release announcing the award.
“If they choose ‘yes’ then they’re automatically entered. Once we get all of the names, we send the names to an accounting firm, and they do a random drawing for us. A winner is selected at random approximately 45 days after the State of Alaska distributes the payment,” Kuiper said. “It’s very exciting, probably the highlight of the year for us, so awarding a $25,000 scholarship really does open doors and opportunities for families and takes away the financial barriers and stresses and allows the child or winner to pursue any of their dreams within education.”
According to Kuiper Alaska 529 was started in 2010 as a response to seeing the elections of people contributing 50% decrease after the nationwide financial crisis. Kuiper said the organization wanted to do something that was meaningful and catch the attention of Alaska residents. According to Kuiper, they came up with the amount of $25,000 because it was roughly the equivalent of 144 credits at the University of Alaska. Kuiper added that while any of the winners can attend any eligible institution across the country, Alaska 529 does try to incentivize to keep future leaders within the state.
Carl Petersen and Samantha Jenkins were both born in Juneau and said they’ve been checking the box on their PFD application pretty much since Maxine’s birth. They have an older daughter, Riley, who is in eighth grade, and they started checking the box for her, as well, and it just became a habit. They said they were motivated to set the PFD aside because of the student loan debt they both have accumulated from their respective time spent in college and said they’d rather not see their children face similar circumstances if at all avoidable.
“The scholarship is nice, but honestly, the part where we get to set aside a little nest egg for each of the kids for when they graduate is the real reason why we did it,” Jenkins said.
As for Maxine, though it’s still a little early for her to be planning for college, she said so far, one idea she has for when she grows up is she’d like to be a Youtube star and make art and robots.
On a scale of 1-10, how excited was Maxine to receive the scholarship?
“Ten because of all of the balloons.”
• Contact reporter Jonson Kuhn at email@example.com.