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Gallagher Announces Winners in Essay Contest Promoting Money Smarts and Investor Knowledge


CONTACT:  Tami Torres
(850) 413-2842
TALLAHASSEE—Tom Gallagher, Florida's chief financial officer, today announced the top picks in a 2006 essay contest aimed at encouraging financial literacy and investor education among middle and high school students in Florida.
Launched in the fall of 2005, the contest, "Cash in on Your Money Smarts," asked students, ages 14 to 18, to submit at least a 1,000-word essay in response to "If you had $100,000 to invest, what would you invest in and why?" with explanations on why they chose to invest in certain companies or products and what information they used to back up their decisions.  
"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."
First, second and third place prizes of $750, $500 and $250 respectively were awarded to teens in five geographic regions, for a total of 15 winners statewide.  Nearly 900 students participated in this year's contest.  The winners by region are as follows:
Region 1:
First Place: Douglas Chico, 15,  Florida High University School, Tallahassee
Second Place: Justine Gunderson, 16, Lincoln High School, Tallahassee
Third Place: Candice Baugh, 15,  Crestview High School, Crestview
Region 2:
First Place: Rachel Christian, 18, Home-schooled, Fernandina Beach
Second Place: Alex Whipple, 17, Middleburg High School, Orange Park
Third Place: Bryan Cowan, 17, Bartram Trail High School, Jacksonville
Region 3:
First Place: Han Zhu, 16, St. Petersburg Senior High School, Largo
Second Place: Francesca Nutt, 17, J.W. Mitchell High School, Holiday
Third Place: Jared Moody, 17,  Palm Harbor University, Palm Harbor
Region 4:
First Place: Anthony Marchante, 17, Boone High School, Orlando
Second Place: Maggie David, 16, Vanguard High School, Ocala
Third Place: Junior Nashan Kemraj, 17, Boone High School, Orlando
Region 5:
First Place: Brian Bonomi, 16, Home-schooled, Cooper City
Second Place: Travis Engebretsen, 17, Hobe Sound Christian Academy, Stuart
Third Place: Amanda Olmstead, 18, Summit Christian School, Lake Worth
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 in 2004 in response to a 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.
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.
"Encouraging financial literacy among young Floridians empowers them to make informed decisions and encourages personal accountability for those decisions," Gallagher said.
Gallagher said that the Department of Financial Services has also conducted more than 130 presentations in schools over the last year to help teach basic financial management skills to Florida students. 
Financial support for the "Cash in on Your Money Smarts" essay contest was 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
To view the winning essays, log on to and click on the "Cash In on Your Money Smarts" button on the right side of the webpage.