Five-year-old Lorelei Susko is fascinated by worms. She also loves performing for people.
That combination has led to the Rochester Hills preschooler’s starring role in a new Michigan Education Savings Program (MESP) advertising campaign – and put her parents on the path toward saving for Lorelei’s college expenses.
Lorelei, the daughter of Dan and Michelle Susko, is the grand-prize winner of Metro Parent magazine’s CoverKids Search contest, sponsored by MESP. As such, she’ll appear in upcoming MESP digital, print and television advertisements and grace the cover of Metro Parent’s June edition.
In addition, a $1,529 MESP savings account was opened in her name.
“That’s definitely icing on the cake to winning the contest,” Michelle Susko said. “We hadn’t really started saving for her college education yet, and we want to be able to support her. We make sure that she knows her future plans include going to college.”
Lorelei, who will be a kindergartner in Rochester Community Schools next fall, gained CoverKids status when a photo her parents submitted was chosen from 3,000 other entrants by a panel of southeast Michigan photographers.
The winning entry shows a smiling, pigtailed Lorelei standing in her backyard, arm outstretched with a pair of earthworms in her palm. “She just loves digging for worms and bugs,” Michelle Susko said, adding that Lorelei has been known to drape worms on her house’s doorknobs.
Lorelei’s penchant for performing will also serve her well in her role as Michigan’s new face of college savings, her mother said.
“She always talks of being a farmer because she loves horses and being outside, plus she has kind of this spark about her and is known to break into song just about everywhere,” Michelle Susko said. “She wants to be a singer, actress and farmer.”
Jennifer Howey, senior marketing manager for TIAA-CREF Tuition Financing Inc., said the contest is meant to serve as a fun way to draw attention to how higher education can help children achieve their dreams. TIAA-CREF Tuition Financing Inc. manages the MESP on behalf of the state of Michigan.
“We’re hopeful that featuring an actual Michigan child in the advertising campaign will help other Michigan families relate to the importance of saving for college,” Howey said.
The amount of Lorelei’s award – $1,529 – is significant because the MESP is what is known as a 529 plan, named after Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code, which created these types of savings plans.
Also, the contest was designed to coincide with 529 Day – May 29 – created to increase awareness about saving for college.
MESP is administered by the Michigan Department of Treasury, which chose TIAA-CREF Tuition Financing Inc. to manage the plan in November 2000. The MESP now has more than 200,000 accounts with total assets exceeding $3.7 billion. TIAA-CREF Tuition Financing Inc. is one of the nation’s largest 529 program managers and currently manages 11 state programs, including Michigan’s.
MESP is one of three Michigan Section 529 plans, all of which offer Michigan taxpayers a state income tax deduction on contributions and potential tax-free growth on any earnings if account proceeds are used to pay for qualified expenses. MESP can be used at any eligible college, university or trade school in the nation and some abroad for a variety of qualified expenses, including tuition, mandatory equipment, fees, certain room and board costs and books. Limitations apply. See the MESP Disclosure Booklet for details.
To learn more about MESP, visit MIsaves.com or contact us at 877-861-6377.
TIAA-CREF Tuition Financing, Inc., MESP Program Manager