A Plainview sixth-grader's thoughts about financial savings and special recognition of military veterans' needs recently won the grand prize in an essay contest that drew 550 students' submissions.

Gregory Kies, 11, who attends Plainview-Old Bethpage Middle School, claimed the top spot in Astoria Federal Savings' eighth annual "Teach Children to Save" contest. Participants were asked to complete the statement: "If I saved a lot today, in the future I could . . ."

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In his 250-word essay, Gregory suggested building a peaceful place for military veterans to live after they complete their service.

"I have a lot of veterans in my family, and I always thought they should have a nice place to sit and relax after keeping our country safe," Gregory said.

Students from nearly 150 schools in Nassau, Suffolk, Brooklyn, Queens and Westchester counties participated in the contest.

For the win, Gregory was given a new laptop computer in a ceremony at Astoria Federal's headquarters in Lake Success. In addition, a laptop for the school's use was presented to Plainview-Old Bethpage Middle School Principal John McNamara.

Gregory is a member of his school's student council and student newspaper. He also plays saxophone in the school band, and in his spare time he enjoys karate, baseball and track.