With two preliminary round wins, a team of four rising juniors from Lenoir County Early College High School have earned the right to compete for a spot in the finals of the National Personal Finance Challenge, one of only two teams in the state and 24 in the nation still in the running.
Coached by social studies teacher Dr. Travis Towne, the team of Alima Stocks, Kayden See, Hannah Van and Maria Santiago put their financial analysis skills on display via Zoom in the semi-final round Tuesday. Results of that round will be revealed later this week.
The four teams chosen for the finals get an all-expense-paid trip to New York City on June 5. The winning team receives a cash award of $2,000. As winners of the state semi-finals, the four team members each won $250 scholarships.
“Obviously, I’m very proud of them,” Towne said during a break in a virtual practice session with his team.
“I wasn’t expecting to make it this far, but I think the main thing that helped us get here was believing in ourselves and trusting our knowledge. In a way, I can see it as a big step to our future,” Maria Santiago said.
The National Personal Finance Challenge provides high school students the opportunity to build and demonstrate their knowledge of money management. Teams showcase their expertise in the concepts of earning income, spending, saving, investing, managing credit and managing risk, according to the competition’s website. The challenge is sponsored by the Council for Economic Education.
In the first two rounds, competitors completed written tests. The national semi-final round, or case study round, is markedly different. Teams have to analyze an individual’s or a family’s financial situation – they don’t know the details until they’re in the competition – and make recommendations for putting them on firm financial footing.
“They’re basically financial planners,” Towne said. “They’re going to talk about taxes, where to put their investments, paying off debt and how to make sure they take the money they’re getting in and dispersing it well. That encompasses all of personal finance.”
The team has two hours to analyze the particulars of the case and 15 minutes to make a presentation to judges.
They’re prepared not only by their practice sessions but also by what they learned in Towne’s financial literacy class, team members agreed.