Sallie Mae, the nation's saving, planning, and paying for college company, today announced the winners of its first $20,000 "Good Things Come to Those Who Plan" contest, which awarded one grand prize of $10,000 and two second prizes of $5,000 each to families who are building financial plans to pay for college.

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Families entered the contest by registering for any of Sallie Mae's free plan-for-college tools, including the College Planning Calculator and the Scholarship Search by Sallie Mae, and completing a short essay on why they are excited to plan for college. The three winners were selected by a team of Sallie Mae employees, who judged the essays on a combination of statement of purpose and originality. More than 15,000 entries were submitted.

The Ruse family from Lake Stevens, Wash., outside of Seattle, was named the $10,000 grand prize winner. Kyla Ruse, 17, was nominated by her mother, Angela Moore, who noted that Kyla will be the first in their family to graduate high school and go to college.

"She has such drive and determination, she always looks on the positive side of life," said Ms. Moore. "I am striving to do all within my power to help her be that successful college student who goes on to be an amazing adult, paving the way for generations to come."

Kyla has maintained a high grade point average and still found time to participate in sports programs and work part-time since she turned 16. "It's like a weight lifted off of my shoulders," said Kyla, who plans to study marketing and journalism. "Every single penny will go toward my tuition!"

The Runge family from Jupiter, Fla., received $5,000 from Sallie Mae. Renee Runge, 15, was nominated by her mother, Rae Ellen Runge.

Renee started the Community Angel Network, an online directory of more than 80 nonprofit organizations in the Palm Beach area that need volunteers, and President Barack Obama awarded her a President's Volunteer Service Award in 2014. "I have always had a passion for volunteering, and I have dedicated more than 600 hours of volunteer service since I was in middle school," Renee said.

"Renee knows from experience that finding places to volunteer can be time-consuming and sometimes challenging, so she decided to start something to help potential volunteers easily find places that need their service," Renee's mother said. "I know Renee will be a difference-maker, and I am excited for an amazing future for her!"

Caryn Waters of Baltimore, Md., received $5,000 from Sallie Mae after entering the contest for her seven-month-old son, Daniel Sultani. Ms. Waters is already making monthly deposits into Daniel's college fund and feels that all children should have the opportunity to go to college.

"I want Daniel to be afforded an amazing future, and I want him to never have to worry about paying for school," said Ms. Waters. "I started saving now because I want to have most, if not all, of Daniel's tuition paid before he heads off to school. No child should ever worry about their education, and I want to see to it that my son doesn't, either."

"Our research shows that families who have a plan for college are three times more confident they will be able to meet the cost of college," said Temeka Easter, director of social media, Sallie Mae. "Each of these impressive winners shares a passion about reaching that dream of a higher education, and they are doing all they can to make that happen. It was particularly gratifying to meet each of them, learn firsthand about how they are planning for college, and how winning this contest will help make that dream of college a reality."

Watch the contest video featuring each family:

To join in the planning for college conversation, visit or #PaysToPlan. Free planning tools and resources are available at

Sallie Mae (NASDAQ: SLM) is the nation's saving, planning, and paying for college company. Whether college is a long way off or just around the corner, Sallie Mae offers products that promote responsible personal finance, including private education loans, Upromise rewards, scholarship search, college financial planning tools, and online retail banking. Learn more at Commonly known as Sallie Mae, SLM Corporation and its subsidiaries are not sponsored by or agencies of the United States of America.

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