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Taylorsville resident Hazel Pope, 2, wins $1,000 Utah Educational Savings Plan scholarship

Dec 01, 2017 08:00AM ● Published by Carl Fauver

Aubrae Pope (right) shows her daughter Hazel, 2, the scholarship check she received after winning the “Book Your Summer” drawing. Hazel’s father, Ken, holds her up for a better view. (Sharon Deeds/Utah State Library)

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Her mom, Aubrae, swears her daughter Hazel can already read “a little.” Question is, how well does the 2-year-old know her numbers? For instance, does she know three zeroes in front of a one are meaningless, but three zeroes behind it represent a good start on a college savings plan?

Little Hazel Pope is one of four statewide winners this year in the Utah Educational Savings Plan’s annual “Book Your Summer” reading program.

And because Hazel’s parents — Ken and Aubrae Pope — entered her into the scholarship drawing through the Taylorsville Branch of the Salt Lake County Library system, the branch itself also received a $500 award to spend on materials.

“We visit the Taylorsville Library at least once a week,” Aubrae Pope said. “And as soon as we get there, Hazel runs straight to the children’s section and pulls out books for us to read.”

Of course, mom admits, she still does most of the heavy lifting.

“But Hazel does recognize a lot of letters, and she can count to 10,” Aubrae Pope said.

Hazel is the only winner who lives in the Salt Lake Valley, with the three others in Helper, Hyrum and Richfield, respectively. The libraries in those cities — along with the Taylorsville Library — have already received their $500 awards. But the scholarship winners have a few years to wait.

“They (UESP) made up a nice, oversized check, which Hazel now has in her room,” Aubrae Pope said. “But Hazel doesn’t actually get any money now. Instead, the UESP opened a $1,000 scholarship account, which is great, because my husband and I already set aside college money for her.”

Aubrae and her husband, Ken, understand the valley of college degrees, having both graduated from BYU–Hawaii. Aubrae Pope earned her degree in elementary education, with minors in psychology and mathematics. Ken Pope’s degree is in Hawaiian studies, with an emphasis in language.

“It would be fun to have Hazel go out to Hawaii to attend our alma mater, but that’s a long way off,” Aubrae Pope said. “I was just thrilled to learn the UESP scholarship fund can be used at any accredited university she chooses.”  

According to its website, “the Utah Educational Savings Plan is a nonprofit 529 college savings program, a tax-advantaged savings vehicle designed to encourage individuals to save for future higher education costs.” Several states have similar plans across the country, and the Utah plan is consistently recognized as one of the best. You can learn more about it at www.uesp.org.

The Utah State Library also sponsored the “Book Your Summer” reading contest, which was in only its second year, this summer.

“(The Book Your Summer program) is a great way for students to maintain and improve their reading skills over the summer,” said Utah State Librarian Donna Jones Morris.

Taylorsville Library Branch Manager Eleanor Nave added, “We’re thrilled (the Popes) have such a focus on books and were so proactive about signing up for the drawing.”

To be eligible for the scholarship drawing, Hazel had to complete a series of “Book Your Summer” activities.

“We really weren’t thinking about the scholarship drawing at all,” Aubrae Pope said. “We just signed up for the library program to have activities to do together. Besides reading books, Hazel did so many other things. One activity had her finger-painting for the first time ever.”

Every student who fulfills the requirements of the summer program receives a free book.

“We figured that was a big enough prize,” Aubrae added. “When they emailed and called to say Hazel had also won the $1,000 scholarship, we were shocked and thrilled.”

The Utah Educational Savings Plan and the Utah State Library plan to team up on the “Book Your Summer” program again next year.  Library patrons anywhere across Utah can register their children for it next May. 

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