Solid Investing Back to School Essay Contest

Students throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area grades 4-12 are invited to enter the “What Do I Want to Be When I Grow Up, And How Do I Get There” Back To School Essay Contest.  The contest is sponsored by The Solid Investing Company, which believes in helping your kids achieve productive life goals.  Essays must be typewritten and submitted here.

Essays must be 100 words minimum. Essays will be read and evaluated by a panel of judges comprised of educators, employers, and media personalities. 25 winners will be chosen. Winners will receive TWO tickets to the St. Louis Cardinals vs. Milwaukee Brewers game held at Busch Stadium at 6:45 pm on Tuesday, September 13, 2022.

Enter by emailing Solid Investing at and attach your essay. 

Deadline for contest entry is midnight, Tuesday, September 6, 2022.  Winners will be notified by Friday, September 9 with instructions on where to meet at Busch Stadium to pick up your two tickets and congratulatory letter from the Mayor.

Winners will be notified via email by Friday, September 9, 2022 that their essay has been chosen. Each of the 25 winners will receive TWO tickets to the game so that a parent or guardian of choice can attend the game with the student. The winner’s email will specify which Busch Stadium Gate and at what time to meet for ticket distribution on game day, Tuesday, September 13, 2022. 

Meet Your Essay Contest Judging Panelists

Keith Raymond
Keith Raymond President and CEO The Solid Investing Company
I didn’t have much growing up, but now my cup runneth over. I own a spacious house in the suburbs. I own and operate three thriving businesses, one of which is The Solid Investing Company. And I try to be a mentor to every child and adult alike that has ambition and a dream…after all, there’s always time to be all that we can be as long as there is breath in our bodies. I grew up on the north side of St. Louis. For those of you familiar with our burg, the north side is the counterpart to Chicago’s south side, or New York’s Harlem; it is predominantly Black and poor. The block I lived on was blighted, a far contrast to the block on which I now reside which is peppered with homes valued well into the six figures. How did a poor black boy like me become an entrepreneur? What roadmap did I take to success? My journey to success was very simple. I finished high school. I held many jobs, most low level. But, guess what? I learned one of the most valuable skills in life–a work ethic. From there I began the real road to financial success by participating in a world-renown travel business. I saved my money preparing for a rainy day. And that day did come. COVID hit and devastated the travel industry. But as a football player I knew in school once taught me, if you can’t get a touchdown, you fall back and punt. I’ve been punting all my life and I’ve achieved my goal.
Jennifer Blome
Jennifer BlomeBroadcaster
Jennifer’s broadcasting career spans four decades in news.
 She became the first morning news anchor in St. Louis, when KSDK launched Today in St. Louis in the early 1980s. For 22 years, Jennifer co-anchored the morning news with Art Holliday.

After leaving KSDK in 2014, Jennifer worked as Director of Humane Education at the APA of Missouri. She and her group of volunteers visited area schools, teaching children empathy, kindness and responsible pet guardianship. Jennifer started a Prison Art Program where offenders at three Missouri prisons created pet portraits to raise money for homeless animals.

Jennifer currently co-hosts “The Jennifer & Wendy Show” with radio legend Wendy Wiese on KTRS 550 am from 10 am- noon weekdays. It is an apolitical talk show. Think slice of life, kitchen table talk for listeners of all ages!

Jennifer earned her Bachelor’s degree in Radio-TV-Film from Bowling Green State University and her Master’s in Social Work from Washington University. Jennifer had a private therapy practice for five years.

She adopted her dog, Pollyanna, from the APA and the two live in St. Louis County.

Rhyan Henson
Rhyan HensonKSDK-TV News Anchor and Reporter
He knew he wanted to become a reporter after interning at 5 On Your Side during college.
“Interning at 5 On Your Side helped me realize how the power of reporting can help bring longstanding issues to light,” said Rhyan. “I decided to come back here because I want to help my hometown reach its potential.”
Rhyan came to 5 On Your Side in October 2018 from Texas, most recently working at KWTX in Waco, and previously at KBMT in Beaumont. He’s won a Texas Crime Stoppers Media Award and was part of the team nominated for a Lone Star Emmy for coverage of the Austin bombings. In 2019 he won an Emmy for breaking news storm coverage.
In 2021 he was promoted to the Sunday anchor of Today in St. Louis.
In his free time he loves watching and playing sports. If you see him on the street, stop and say hello.
You can contact Rhyan at and follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Carol Howard
Carol Howard14th Ward Alderwoman City of St. Louis
As a lifelong resident of the City of Saint Louis I grew up on the southside of the City. Our families worked hard and mostly had good jobs to support family. We learned that owning your own home was the way to secure a future for your family. As I became an adult and took on family responsibilities with my husband we knew that to raise our family of five children, we needed to have a secure home. We did not have much of a start, but we saved and scraped together a down payment on a City home large enough for seven. I was able to go to school and earn a teaching certificate at Harris-Stowe State College with no debt. We moved on to open an auto repair business while I taught school. Our children were able to attend school and the opportunity to go on to secondary education.
As the children grew up and out on their own I retired from public education and ran for public office as the Alderwoman of the 14th Ward City of Saint Louis. I have been fortunate to be able to spend my life in service to the citizens of Saint Louis and look forward to continuing my service as I leave office in the spring of 2023.
Corey Johnson
Corey JohnsonParkway Director of Athletics and Activities
Effective July 1, 2022,Corey Johnson has been named Parkway’s director of athletics and activities. He is currently the athletic director at Parkway North High where he has served for three years. Prior to Parkway, he served in many coaching and leadership roles as high school activities and athletic director, assistant principal, teacher and head coach of two sports in the Hazelwood School District. He began his career as a coach and high school social studies teacher. Johnson has served on the Missouri State High School Activities Association Board of Directors for seven years including a year as board president. Johnson holds a master’s in educational administration from Lindenwood and a bachelor of arts in history from Westmar University.
Scott Fitzgerald
Scott FitzgeraldCareer Sports Editor St. Louis Suburban Journals
I turned my love of sports into a career. No, not like Michael Jordan or Mark McGwire, but like somebody who writes about them. I became a sportswriter. How did I do it?

Well, it all started when I was a senior at Hazelwood Central High School in North St. Louis County and I took a class in journalism. I was good at writing and I loved sports. So, guess what? I aced the class. I thought I was on my way to becoming a sportswriter, but one thing stood in my way. I wasn’t exactly class valedictorian so I couldn’t get a scholarship. And my dad made too much $$ to get financial aid. And getting a job in sports writing required a college degree. But there was a drive in my belly. I was determined to do whatever it took to reach my goal. My dad knew a guy. Dads always know guys, right? Lol. And this guy was a supervisor at Granite City Steel. He got me a summer job as a laborer. It was not college boy work, but I made bank. In fact, I racked up THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS. That was a lot of dough for the 1970’s.

More importantly, it was enough to pay for a year at Mizzou. I got my degree and my first job was as a stringer with the St. Louis Suburban Journals, an arm of the world-renown St. Louis Post-Dispatch. For those of you who may not know, a stringer is a reporter who gets paid by the story. I got a meager $35/story. But since I went back home to live with my folks, I could get by. Then I took a job working out in the boondocks for the Wentzville & O’Fallon Messenger as a full-time professional sportswriter. I moved out on my own. I held that job for a couple years. I honed my craft and when there was an opening, I went back to work for the Suburban Journals. My boss happened to leave for another job, and I took her spot as the official Sports Editor for the paper and did it for 23 years.

Bam! My dream came true. Hard work, drive, and direction always pay off.

Jim P. Kidd
Jim P. KiddCEO Advanced Bone & Joint
Mr. Kidd has 30+ years of healthcare management experience. He spent 12 years in surgical administration at universities, and now more than 19 years with Advanced Bone & Joint. He holds a bachelor’s degree in education.
Mr. Kidd is currently CEO of Advanced Bone & Joint. The practice has 20 providers and three locations in St. Charles County, Missouri. During his time at ABJ, Mr. Kidd has also been the Executive Director and subsequently a consultant to St. Peters Ambulatory Surgery Center. He continues to wear other hats including real estate and imaging.
Jim is the proud father of 3 daughters.
He has been a member of the American Association of Orthopedic Executives (AAOE) since 2003. He has been a member of the Midwest AAOE since 2005; a member of the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) since 1995, and a member of MGMA of Greater St. Louis since 2006.
Dr. Robert K. Payne
Dr. Robert K. PayneEducator, Author, Motivational Speaker
Dr. Robert K. Payne is the Founder and CEO of Tied to the Power of Greatness, a 501c3 Missouri non-profit organization. Dr. Payne is an educator at heart. He is an assistant principal at Harris Stowe State University and Lindenwood University, and a motivational/inspirational speaker supporting students’ growth and development in becoming what God has called them to become. He is passionate, caring, loving, and has a plan that aligns with growing male students to achievement!
Dr. Payne earned his Doctorate of Education degree with an emphasis on Educational Leadership from Maryville University. He earned his Master of Arts degree with an emphasis on Teaching and Learning from Lindenwood University. He earned his MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management, and he earned his Bachelors of Science degree with an emphasis in Finance from DeVry University. Dr. Payne is a musician, songwriter, and lover of music from all genres. His book, TIED TO THE POWER OF GREATNESS, is scheduled to be released later this year. For booking information, please contact 314-275-0607.
Gary G. Goldberg
Gary G. GoldbergPresident and Founder Financial & Tax Strategies, Inc.
“Enjoy what you do.” For Gary Goldberg, that’s the secret to life — both for himself and the people he works with. As a financial advisor, Gary uses investment and tax planning strategies to help his clients work toward the financial security and freedom they need to pursue their passions.
After joining the financial services industry in 1988, Gary founded his firm in 1999. His clients are spread across seven states, including Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Arizona and Colorado. His financial advice has been shared in a variety of media outlets, including radio programs on KMOX-AM and KTRS-AM and newspapers, including the Belleville New-Democrat and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Most recently, Gary was flown out to NYC for an interview for NBC-TV to discuss his unique and exclusive proprietary process that provides a unique solution to investor and retiree problems.
Gary is a firm believer that everyone should have the opportunity to pursue financial freedom. He frequently leads seminars on such topics as preparing for retirement, financial management and college planning. He also makes it a priority to work with individuals who are frequently overlooked in the financial services industry, including women and those in the LGBT community.
Gary has passed the Series, 6, 7, 24, 26, 63, and 66 securities exams, and he holds a life, health and annuities insurance license. He is an Investment Advisor Representative, a Registered Principal and a Registered Financial Consultant (RFC). He is a graduate of Southwestern Illinois College, where he earned a degree in business administration,
Gar is a father of three adopted kids. His husband, Martin Goldberg, also works at the firm. In Gary’s free time, he enjoys spending time with his family and serving his church.
Savannah Leigh Bosler
Savannah Leigh BoslerREI Nation St. Louis Rehab Market Leader / Keller Williams Licensed Salesperson
I am living proof that a girl from St. Louis can become a woman who is one of a handful of females in a leadership role in a male-dominated industry. For all the girls out there, who are told there are ceilings, I’m here to tell you there are NO CEILINGS. Women are breaking through those artificial barriers every single day. You can do whatever your male counterparts can. The sky is the limit. And in my industry, there is NO LIMIT to how much money one can make.

I’m still climbing the ladder, but here’s where I am now….

My current position is leading the St. Louis Renovations Department for REI Nation, based in Tennessee. REI stands for Real Estate Investing and is a turnkey real estate investing company that has revolutionized the turnkey process and set the Gold Standard for the industry. I help our acquisitions team determine if a property is the right fit for us. I come up with a rehab budget for the project, then I allocate those funds to different teams of contractors to complete the project.

I am also a realtor with Keller Williams, also a real estate firm, and obtained my real estate license in 2017. I’ll be honest with you, getting one’s real estate license is no easy feat. I studied hard and passed a tough exam. Again, you can do it if you’re willing to put in the work. I am a proud alumnus of STLCC (St. Louis Community College). I obtained my Associates degree in General Transfer Studies. As much as I loved college, I didn’t love the idea of taking out student loans and creating the mountain of debt it would have taken to getting a bachelor’s, then a master’s degree. Initially, I wanted to pursue degrees in urban planning, but I realized that I don’t necessarily need a degree to have an impact on the development of the city.

I would like to assist in the revitalization of the City of St. Louis, specifically the South Side. My ambition is to purchase old, dilapidated buildings and restore them to their former glory. While doing this, I also want to be an advocate for educating people on financial freedom through investing, pursuing home ownership and how to form their own limited liability corporations, LLC’s.

I firmly believe that there’s enough opportunity out here for all of us to be “eating at the same table.” I believe that once you’ve made it far enough in life, it’s your duty to offer a hand to those that are still trying to make it.

Alexander Reese, Jr.
Alexander Reese, Jr.Owner/Operator Reese Contracting
Everyone thinks you have to go to college to earn a good living. Well, I’m here to tell you that I earn a VERY GOOD LIVING, and I never set foot inside a college classroom. I own a profitable carpentry business. I make good money, equal to or more than many college graduates. And I love what I do. I am the sole proprietor of Reese Contracting. I can do everything it takes to remodel a house…roofing, installing ceramic tile, plumbing, painting, light electrical work, installing flooring, YOU NAME IT. I CAN DO IT…And do it well.

How did I learn my trade, you ask? I learned everything I know from my dearly departed father, Alexander Reese, Sr. When I was about 14, maybe younger, I wanted a room of my own. We lived in Hazelwood, a suburb of St. Louis. We had the land, just not another room. So, daddy and I built one TOGETHER. I have been doing some sort of carpentry work ever since. I like working with my hands and the feeling I get when I can look at something years later and say, “I MADE THAT.”

My daddy used to say, “Son, if the world comes to an end, and there is nothing left standing, but there is some wood, maybe a hammer and some nails, you can help rebuild it.” He then, laughed and pulled me close and pointed to my sisters, “Tammy wants to be a lawyer, you know. And Lorna is thinking about being a dancer. Maybe you can build them a law office and dance studio someday.”

Today, my clients are doctors, lawyers, and other upper middle-class people. I always hear my daddy’s voice in my head when I walk into their fancy homes. “Boy, make it better than when you walked in.” Words I will never forget. Words to live by.

Zach Dalin
Zach Dalin Award-Winning Photographer
Zach Dalin, published and award-winning wedding photographer based in St. Louis, Missouri, has received much recognition for his renowned work in wedding and engagement portraits, but his career experience has many different dimensions that enhance his current work.

He assisted on his first wedding in 2013; and fast forward almost a decade later, his images have been featured in several prominent national and local magazines. His work has expanded to now focus not just on weddings, but also on bar/bat mitzvahs and other special occasions as well as professional headshot photography.

All of Zach’s work is influenced by his other career experiences, including his time working with major television and press outlets such as CBS, USA Today and iHeartRadio, just to name a few that he has been privileged to serve. His photojournalist expertise taught him to work fast on his feet and capture those magical moments that will be cherished for generations to come.

Zach graduated from Bradley University in 2013, earning a bachelor’s degree in Interactive Media. KMOV-TV, a local St. Louis CBS affiliate, was his first job post-college and taught him much of the skillset that he applies daily in his own photography studio. In the world of media and entertainment, Zach has been granted the opportunity to photograph over 450 concerts, World Series games, Stanley Cup Finals, NFL football and other exciting experiences within the St. Louis market. His attention to detail and ability to highlight the emotion of those momentous events enriches his work capturing each special moment on the most important days in his clients’ lives.

Robert Cervantes
Robert CervantesDirector of Quality/Risk Management Lincoln Prairie Behavioral Health Center
Mr. Cervantes attended West Plains High School in Missouri. He then attended Maryville University in St. Louis, and Land of Lincoln Community College in Springfield, IL., before returning to Maryville and obtaining his Bachelors of Science degree in healthcare management.

While working full time as the Director of Quality/Risk Management Mercy Hospital, he is pursuing his master’s degree in healthcare administration. Cervantes recently married his long-time partner, Shane. They own a home in Springfield, Il. and raise pets Greta and Romulus, a Pitbull/Shephard mix and bearded dragon, respectively. The couple is in search of Sphinx cats to round out the familial menagerie.

Cervantes plans to transition from risk management to a possible chief operating officer in the healthcare field. He balances career and family with hobbies including gardening, movies, theater, and lots and lots of leisure time and relaxation with friends and family.

Y'Vonda Darlene Holmes
Y'Vonda Darlene HolmesRetired Nurse Practitioner
From the time I was a little girl, I always wanted to be a nurse. During my career, I achieved that goal and more.

When I was around 10 years old, I read the story of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. She was my “shero.” She established nursing as a respected profession back in the 1800’s. Fast forward to the 1970’s and a teen named Darlene (yes, I go by my middle name) was determined to continue in her footsteps.
I was a teenage mother by the time I was just 17. Yes, holding my baby girl Amy in my arms was the most thrilling moment of my young life, but since I was unwed, that could have stopped me from fulfilling my dreams and ambitions. It was a hurdle I was determined to jump over.

Young ladies reading this may have that hurdle to climb also. Teenage pregnancy is commonplace. Yet, my real-life shero, my mother Bonnie came to the rescue. She took Amy and raised her as her own for the first few years of my first-born’s life, allowing me to attend the St. Louis Municipal School of Nursing and even live in the dorm.
I graduated with honors and was officially a Registered Nurse. I immediately got a job at the old St. Louis City Hospital as a floor nurse. During those days, nurses did not wear scrubs of various colors like one sees today. Daily I wore a stiff white hat, and crisp, starched blouse and skirt – all pristine white. Miss Nightingale championed sanitary health conditions, and keeping one’s nursing uniform clean and white, even during patient care which was often a dirty business, demonstrated sanitary conditions for the patients. I remember coming home some nights covered in all manner of bodily fluids, but it was nothing a big bottle of Clorox bleach and steaming hot water couldn’t get clean so that I could be ready for the next day.

By the time my first-born was four, I was living on my own in a small South St. Louis City shotgun apartment. The rent was just $90 per month. Can you imagine? But this was the 1980’s and I pinched a penny till it squealed. I could only work part-time until I met my future husband. He was nanny to Amy and my second-born, my bouncing golden-haired baby boy Jacob. Soon, my last-born, Megan was coming along and simultaneously I got a coveted job in the recovery room at Saint Louis University Hospital, the second largest hospital in town. They chose me because I had been a candy striper as a teen and Addy Doyle, Recovery Room Director remembered me. It pays to volunteer, and do well. Remember that, kids.

No longer was I a floor nurse, having to run up and down hallways caring for patients. Now, I cared for them after surgery. I often joked that I woke people up for a living. Lol. I did that for 20 years until I developed a tumor on my spine, and after extensive surgery, I was no longer able to do the heavy lifting expected of registered nurses. My nanny, turned husband of 12 years, Grayling and I transitioned. I went on disability and he soared in his marketing career. After the divorce, I went to live at my parents’ farm and could have lived on disability till my last days. But, no. That’s not what Florence Nightingale would do. I got up, put on my big girl panties and went back to school. I travelled 25 miles each day back and forth from the farm to the University of Missouri-Rolla to take courses college freshmen had taken as teens. No, I didn’t have a degree, although I had been a Registered Nurse for 20 years. Back in the day, nurses went to what they called “diploma programs.”

I went from there to UMKC I went on to get my Bachelors of Science in Nursing. With my bachelor’s in hand, I came home and went to Saint Louis University and began their Nurse Practitioner program. My 20 years as an RN fast-tracked me and I quickly completed my Master’s degree, earning the credential Family Nurse Practitioner by the time I was in my 50’s. I traded in the nurse whites I wore in the 70’s, to the scrubs I wore in the 80’s and 90’s, for the crisp white lab coat worn by doctors.

I’m retired now, but my journey from teen mother, to registered nurse, to nurse practitioner is one that I am proud of making. Let no obstacle stop you, young men and women. You can jump any hurdle; you just have to keep running and finish the race. That’s what Florence would do.

Grayling Holmes
Grayling HolmesPresident and CEO The Grayling Company Reputation Marketing
Back in the 1960’s, my favorite TV show was “Bewitched.” Darren Stevens was the husband in the program. He was an advertising executive who worked in a downtown skyscraper as an advertising executive. In almost every episode he had to come up with a creative ad campaign and create a brand identity for his client’s product or service that would sell his or her goods or image. I thought back then that I could do that when I grew up. So, guess what? By the time I got to Lutheran North High School, I asked my guidance counselor how I could get the job Darren Stevens had. He didn’t really know because advertising curriculums didn’t exist back in the 1970’s. He said that people just usually went to journalism school or got degrees in English Literature, secured positions as ad agencies, and learned on the job. So, I went to college, earned my degree in English Literature. Then I took a break and raised my wife and three kids. Yes, I said it. I raised my wife too and she raised me. I really did nothing with my bachelor’s degree…but I had one, nonetheless. Fast forward to the late 1980’s when my youngest child went off to kindergarten. My wife, who was a career nurse, suggested that I go to back to school also. “You would make a good lawyer,” she said. “You sure know how to argue,” she quipped, only half joking. I enrolled at Saint Louis University because I could get a bachelor’s degree for free since she worked at the University Hospital. Yeah, I know. By now, you’ve probably fallen asleep of boredom.


Well, long story short, too late, right? I happened to be looking through the course catalog at SLU, and they offered degrees in communications. If one had that “piece of paper” in hand, it opened the door to jobs in advertising, public relations, and broadcast journalism. Cha Ching!!! I was on the road to BECOMING DARREN STEVENS, the TV advertising executive on “Bewitched.” I went to school, sometimes taking the kids with me, if they had the odd day off. The kids sat in the back of the classroom, taking it all in, while Daddy Grayling, aka, yours truly, soaked up what was going on up front. My advertising professor, the late Dr. Larry Baracevic, may he rest in peace, told me words that made me the advertising guru

I am today. He said, “MARRY THE PICTURE WITH THE WORD.” Yes, I said it, “I now consider myself a marketing guru because I have to be expert in ALL aspects of marketing communications to not only succeed, but to soar in today’s competitive marketplace. And if you can’t sell about yourself, then how are you going to be a Darren Stevens and create marketing campaigns to make $$$ for you client’s goods or services.”

At 33 years young, remember I had delayed my career to be a “Mr. Mom, I went on to snag an internship at a prestigious downtown integrated marketing agency. Although there was stiff competition for the non-paid-college credit position, I easily rose above the fray. One day a group of SLU students were invited down to Glennon. We gathered in a huge circular conference room on the 16th floor of the One City Centre skyscraper. We gawked at the room with the lush hunter green carpet and view of the Gateway Arch and Mississippi River and beyond. Sitting in the center of the room in a $4,000 tailored suit was Glen Jamboretz, company CEO of The Glennon Companies Advertising, Public Relations, and Sales Promotions flanked by a bevy of copywriters, graphic designers, publicists, ad execs, and department heads. Out of the blue, Jamboretz threw pencils at each of the internship candidates.

We kinda wondered, why the heck was this guy throwing pencils at us. Didn’t he know that he could put an eye out. Lol. He said, “Quick! Name 20 things you can do with that pencil.” Most of us could name just 10 or so things. Some the others got to 15, but when it was my turn, I easily rattled off 20. You guessed it; the coveted internship went to me. I had the honor of being the first intern of African American descent to get a professional position in that agency. Gossip columnist Jerry Berger even put me in his prestigious column, after I pitched the story to him after learning that, at the time, ad and PR agencies were almost exclusively white. The boys in the ivory towers on Madison Avenue in New York City were from the “Old Boys Network.”

All the TV commercials, magazine ads, and radio spots you saw or heard were created by white males. For that matter, most news stories were also pitched by the same, so much of what you saw or heard through the media back in the day was filtered by Caucasian- male-controlled culture. Yours truly had broken one glass ceiling. There would be many other ceilings to break through on my road to success, my journey to becoming a real-life Darren Stevens.

I had a dream, as Dr. King once said, and I realized it through education, perseverance, talent, and above all, good-old-fashioned hard work. To this day, I’m still working, climbing the ladder. Now, it’s a ladder of my own making. No bosses. No agencies. Just me and my clients, my laptop, and my never-ending ambition to define my own level of success.