Each year, the National Junior Honor Society (NJHS) presents Outstanding Achievement Awards to 500 of the highest achieving middle school students nationwide. More than one million students participate in NJHS from all 50 states, U.S. territories, and around the world.
New Mexico’s three winners this year include Kaleeya Englant and Theresa Robertson, both from Clovis, and Olivia Pacheco, from Rio Rancho. As award winners, each student received a $500 contribution in their names to a 529 savings account administered by The Education Plan, an investment that will help them pay for tuition, room and board, and other higher education expenses. Studies show that youth with as little as $500 in college savings are three times as likely to go to college and four times as likely to graduate. Contributions to 529 accounts grow tax-free and ease the burden of loan debt.
We sat down with Kaleeya, Theresa and Olivia to learn what having a 529 account with The Education Plan means to them, and what they see in their futures.
Kaleeya had many plans for NJHS this year, but they were put on hold due to COVID-19. Activities she looks forward to next year include making gift bags for janitors and taking stuffed animals to children in the hospital. For Kaleeya, the best part of participating in NJHS is community service and the kind-hearted people she meets. Although it was hard to pick just one, her favorite subject in school is mathematics, followed by choir and art. Her spare time is spent with her family, friends, horses and other animals. She proudly describes herself as a cowgirl who wants to be a rodeo star.
Her goal for higher education is to attend Eastern New Mexico University and become a veterinarian, with her own clinic and rescue ranch. For her, the $500 contribution to a college savings plan is an honor, and she hopes that her hard work will inspire others.
This year, Olivia served as secretary of her school’s NJHS chapter. Her favorite part of NJHS is helping others and to do so with classmates who share her commitment to service, which includes campus clean-ups, tutoring, food drives, and decorating the school for the return of students when COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.
She enjoys mathematics and plans to attend the University of New Mexico to study nursing, specifically pediatrics. Apart from NJHS, her extracurricular activities include playing softball, volunteering at her church, doing crafts and puzzles, and hanging out with her family, friends, and dogs. Receiving $500 for college savings makes her feel accomplished and that her hard work and dedication paid off.
For Theresa, the best part of being a member of NJHS is knowing that you are making a difference in your community. Even with COVID-19 and the move to online learning, Theresa still attended monthly meetings, created gratitude cards for community members, and participated in food drives. Her favorite subject is mathematics, and she is a member of the Clovis High School dance team and the student council. Her hobbies include reading, spending time with family and friends, and volunteering in her community.
She aspires to a career in teaching. To have the $500 award in a college savings plan is “huge” to her. She is excited to have the opportunity to use the money in a way that will benefit her future.