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Just hours old, Hanna and Rowan made New Year's Day media debuts Wednesday as the first newborns to receive $50 in savings accounts as part of St. Paul's College Bound program.

"It is still largely a symbol, but I think symbolic support is extremely valuable," Hanna's dad, Paul Heggeseth, said as he held the sleeping, swaddled infant next to his wife, Brianna, in their hospital room.

The Heggeseths along with Mary and Chee Vang, parents of Rowan, allowed a throng of reporters and TV cameras into their hospital rooms as part of St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter's morning news conference to tout the program that has been in the works since he commissioned a task force to study the issue in May 2018.

At his briefing in the lobby at Regions Hospital, Carter called the College Bound launch a "large community partnership." The $1 million annual program is funded with $500,000 from the state and additional money and administrative support from private foundations and the city.

Similar programs have been launched in cities such as St. Louis and San Francisco but are too new to determine efficacy. Carter said the San Francisco program had spurred $4 million in college savings. It wasn't clear how much of that was encouraged by the program or the abundant tech wealth in the Bay Area.

Carter said that a child with more than $1 in a college savings account is three times as likely to attend college. Reps. Kaohly Her and Dave Pinto, both DFL-St. Paul, stood with Carter at the news conference along with hospital and insurance executives.

Pinto said the hope is to eventually establish the program statewide.

There are 5,000 children born in St. Paul annually, all of whom will receive the $50. There's also a plan to make bonus deposits for children and families who actively participate in the savings by checking balances and making deposits, Carter said.

"The goal is to build a relationship with the families," the mayor said before unveiling the official onesies that read, "I'm a College Bound St. Paul Baby."

Even babies who move out of the city after birth will benefit, Carter said. "Wherever they go, their odds are going to be greater because they started in St. Paul," he said.

The brief event Wednesday was ceremonial and short on details as Carter cut off the questioning to duck into the hospital rooms to meet the two families.

"She is perfect and adorable," he cooed to Hanna and her parents.

Both families of the New Year's newborns said they'd already started college savings accounts for their older children.

For the Vangs, the parents of Rowan, that's three older kids ages 11, 7 and 3. Mary Vang called the new savings account "a blessing" and Rowan "our lucky charm."

She said her hopes for the newborn's future include "whatever makes him happy."

The Heggeseths have another daughter, who is 4.

Brianna Heggeseth said she wants Hanna "to be an independent woman who strives for her dreams."

Paul Heggeseth said he hopes she will "leave the world better than she found it."

When it comes to the value of higher education, Hanna already has a great role model. Her mom is a recently tenured statistics professor at Macalester College — a job that brings the perk of tuition breaks for children.

Whatever Hanna's future holds, her mom told Carter of the onesie, "She'll wear it proudly."

Rochelle Olson • 612-673-1747 Twitter: @rochelleolson