Lake Elmo student ‘achieves the dream’

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Levi Miller kept it simple.

It turns out that was a smart move. Miller, 21, recently won the national "Achieving the Dream" T-shirt design competition.

Since the Lake Elmo resident and Century College student won the contest he will receive $1,000 as well as have 1,000 meals donated to the charity of his choice. Plus, 1,000 of his T-shirts will be distributed at the national Achieving the Dream annual meeting in Dallas at the end of the month.

"I was a little surprised when I won," Miller said. "It didn’t feel real at first."

Miller’s design was chosen out of 93 entries from 19 colleges in 10 different states. The entries were judged on creativity, originality and demonstrating the competition’s theme about finishing college.

"I followed the theme of dreaming big and finishing what you start with your degree," Miller said.

Miller is a student in Century’s Visual Communication Technologies program. Miller said he wanted to stray away from using images in his design and instead stick with using words. Miller decided to build the word "DREAM" out of other words that are related to it. Miller used words like "envision," "accomplish" and "character" among several other words to build "DREAM." As a final touch, Miller put "FINISH WHAT YOU START" underneath "DREAM." All of the words were white printed on a black T-shirt.

"It is meant to be high impact, but simple," Miller said.

Now that he’s won the contest he is planning on donating the 1,000 meals to the Salvation Army. What will he do with the $1,000 prize?

"That will be gas money," Miller said. "Or used for all sorts of stuff. I’ll make use of it," he added.

The contest was put on by Achieving the Dream, a nation-wide network of 160 two-year colleges committed to helping students, particularly low-income students and students of color, stay in school and earn a college certificate or degree. It was Achieving the Dream’s first T-shirt contest, and the first time the group has done a contest of any kind with students.

"There is a tremendous pool of talent among community college students," said Nicole Melander of Achieving the Dream. "Achieving the Dream’s ‘DREAM Big for College T-Shirt Design Contest’ is the start of a much larger ‘DREAM Big’ campaign that will provide community college students with many opportunities to shine on a national platform and engage in the national discussion about college completion, all while earning money to help offset the cost of college."

Miller, who was home-schooled during elementary and high school, plans to graduate from Century in 2013. From there he will go on to earn a bachelor’s degree at a four-year college. Eventually Miller hopes to own his own graphic design or web design business.

"Creating stuff is very fulfilling," Miller said. "I think (the contest) will definitely help with finding a job."

Miller’s T-shirt can also be purchased online starting on Feb. 24. at For every T-shirt sold Miller will receive $1 and a meal will be donated to charity.