Volume 2 Number 16
April 18, 2005







Florida’s Chief Financial Officer Tom Gallagher proudly announced the names of six students who were the top picks in an essay contest aimed at encouraging financial literacy among middle and high school students.  Gallagher presented checks to three of the students at their schools in both Orlando and Tampa.

The contest, “Cash in on Your Money Smarts,” asked students, ages 14 to 18, to submit at least a 750-word essay on why they considered themselves money smart and offered students a chance at more than $7,500 in prizes statewide.  First, second and third place prizes will be awarded to teens in given geographic regions, for a total of 15 winners statewide.  Nearly 600 students participated this year.

“This essay contest was a great way to encourage Florida’s young people to show off their financial knowledge and writing skills, and reward them for it,” Gallagher said.  “Learning these valuable skills now will pave the way for a lifetime of financial success.”

The six winners named today represent two (Region 3 and Region 4) of the five regions that competed in the contest.

In Region 3, 186 essays were submitted covering a 12-county area, including Hernando, Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee, Hardee, Highlands, Desoto, Sarasota, Charlotte, Lee and Collier counties.  The winners are:

First Place:  Katie Reynolds, 17, is in 11th grade at H.B. Plant High School in Tampa

Second Place:  Melissa Gallahon, 17, is in 12th grade and home schooled in St. Petersburg

Third Place:   Robert Buesing, 18, is in 12th grade at H.B. Plant High School in Tampa

In Region 4, 219 essays were submitted covering a 14-county area, including St. Johns, Putnam, Flagler, Marion, Citrus, Sumter, Lake, Volusia, Seminole, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Brevard and Indian River counties.  The winners are:

First Place:  Haylee Linduff, 15, is in 10th grade at Circle Christian School in Altamonte Springs

Second Place:  Scott Chapman, 18, is in 12th grade at George Jenkins High School in Lakeland

Third Place:  Kimberly Thomas, 17, is in 12th grade at William R. Boone High School in Orlando

Winners in Regions 1, 2 and 5 will be announced within the next two weeks.

First, second and third place winners will receive $750, $500 and $250 respectively.

The essay contest is part of Gallagher’s statewide public education initiative, Your Money, Your Life, which is designed to help Floridians stretch limited budgets, avoid debt and build assets, including savings and home ownership.  Gallagher started the program last fall in response to a recent survey reporting that many Floridians put themselves at financial risk by waiting too late to save and by running up debt.  The program includes a comprehensive educational website available at

Judging the contest were representatives from the Florida Council on Economic Education, a non-profit organization that supports financial education initiatives in schools and businesses statewide.  In addition, department employees Fred Varn and Greg Thomas, who serve on their area school boards, participated in the judging process.

Joining Gallagher to present checks to the first and third place winners in Tampa was local representative Trey Traviesa.   “Financial literacy empowers individuals by giving them the tools to make informed decisions about their financial matters and encouraging personal accountability for those decisions,” said Rep. Traviesa.  “I think it is great that this program encourages young people to start preparing now for the many important financial decisions they will make in the future.”

Financial support for the “Cash in on Your Money Smarts” essay contest is provided by a grant from the Investor Protection Trust (IPT).  The IPT is a nonprofit organization devoted to investor education. Since 1993, the IPT has worked with the States to provide the independent, objective investor education needed by all Americans to make informed investment decisions. Their website is

Gadsden, Florida's fifth county, was formed in 1823. It once ran from Georgia to the Gulf of Mexico, from the Suwannee River to the Apalachicola River. Quincy, the county seat, was incorporated in 1828. The courthouse, above, was built in 1912.