UD-Lerner College Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship helps high school students gain financial literacy
Students from Newark Charter School won their second consecutive Delaware Personal Finance Challenge state title, participating in this annual high school academic competition held in late April in Newark.
The event was run by the University of Delaware’s Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics, and was once again sponsored by Bank of America which provided needed funding and volunteers to help run the Challenge.
“The competition draws attention to the importance of finance literacy in the schools, and it also gives the students in those classes the chance to demonstrate their knowledge in a competitive academic setting,” said Bonnie Meszaros, assistant professor of economics and CEEE associate director.
Eleven teams comprised of four students each competed in the competition, with Newark Charter successfully defending its 2022 win by defeating A.I. duPont High School in the final round. Other teams represented included Smyrna, Appoquinimink, Concord, St. Mark’s and Woodbridge High Schools.
The first round consisted of a written test on income and managing risk. The second round featured questions regarding spending and managing credit. The third round was a team round with questions on saving and investing. Newark Charter and A.I. duPont had the highest scores following the first three rounds, moving both on to a quiz bowl format for the title.
Newark Charter was then the first team to answer 10 correct questions, earning the $2,500 prize and the opportunity to compete in the national championship in June in Cleveland, Ohio.
Justin Miller, economics teacher at Newark Charter, was proud of his students who put in considerable time to prepare for the challenge.
“This team would come together during class, they’d come after school, they’d prep on their own,” he said. “They just put so much time in preparing themselves to be ready for this event. I’m really proud of them because the kids put in all the work. I’m facilitating, but the kids are the ones studying and learning the material, putting in the extra time outside of school to get to the point where they could do this.”
All the teachers and students who competed in the challenge used CEEE’s Keys to Financial Success personal finance/economics curriculum or other personal finance resources.
Dheeraj Danthuluri, one of the Newark Charter students, was a big fan of the competition. “This is a fantastic event,” he said. “It really promotes the education of personal finance across Delaware, and I believe that’s very important information for everyone to know.”
Teammate Harsha Atluri added, “Preparing together gave us the experience to know the questions and the topics here. We took time during school and outside of school to prepare. We were always hopeful (of our chances) and never lost faith during the entire competition.”
Fellow classmate Saharsh Subbasani hit on a popular theme among the events’ participants, highlighting the importance of teaching students valuable knowledge they’ll use throughout their lives.
“All of this information doesn’t just help us with the competition but will also help us later in life with our own mortgages, credit ratings and things like that,” he said.
Connie Montana is environment, social and governance (ESG) program manager for Bank of America Charitable Foundation, which has been partnering with CEEE to sponsor the event over the 15 years since its inception.
“This event is so powerful to see, because it’s about the students,” Montana said. “It’s about citizens who become smart consumers and who understand good and bad policy when they see it. Not every student in the country gets it; not every student in the state gets it. So I’m personally passionate about it because I want these kids to avoid the mistakes many of us make along the way.”
CEEE assistant director Scott Bacon served as emcee of the proceedings.
“For us, it’s great to see what’s taking place in the classroom with the teachers who work so hard all year long, and they get trained and they find appropriate resources,” Bacon said. “To see the culmination of the learning that’s going on in the classroom in an academic competition like this — it’s rewarding to see the efforts of what they’re doing all year long. We’re just so proud of the students and teachers that teach them, and we’re happy to be just a small part of that educational process.”
The event was also attended by Delaware State Rep. Jeff Hilovsky, who has written a bill that would make personal financial literacy a requirement for graduation in Delaware high schools. It’s a subject Hilovsky is passionate about, and he’s willing to speak with anybody about it.
“I’m going to have it introduced to the state education committee, and then am hoping to get it on the floor of the House where it will be debated and hopefully passed,” he said. “We’ll get some senators on board and hopefully the governor will sign it.
“I’ve had meetings with the governor and secretary of education twice, I’ve met with almost anybody who wants to talk with me about this, and we’re trying to push them from the top down and from the ground up. I’ve been in every civic organization and every neighborhood organization. I want everybody to be in support of this and, guess what, they are.”
Miller, the Newark Charter teacher, is on board. “I wish it was required to graduate from Delaware high schools. It’s so invaluable; it’s the one course kids will come back and say ‘I’m so happy I took this course. I love the fact that I got personal finance knowledge.’ We have finance clubs at school, and that exposure is going to teach them so much that they’ll hold onto their entire life.”
Bacon agreed that the information is very important for students to learn early on before hitting the real world.
“We know that this information applies to everyone’s life. They’re going to be dealing with money, they’re going to be saving and spending, so the process of learning how to budget, how to invest, how to avoid fraud, and take on certain risks while avoiding other risks, is so vital for the citizenry of our country,” he said. “As part of our mission and our vision, we want to see every student graduate economically and financially literate. That’s our goal, and this is a reminder that there are eager students out there and teachers helping them along the way to achieve that goal.”
Hilovsky added, “This event is fantastic because it highlights the drastic need for financial literacy. We know that the world is going a million miles an hour, and we want these kids to be ready to step onto that playing field and be able to compete in a world that is so big now. It’s so important that we give them tools in their toolbox so they reach their maximum potential.”