Michigan School Takes First in National Finance Challenge, Team Members Each Receive $2,000 NEST Account
Second Place to BASIS in Scottsdale, Third to Clarinda High School in Iowa

A team of four students from Chelsea High School in Chelsea, Michigan, took first place today in the National Personal Finance Challenge, hosted by the Nebraska Council on Economic Education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Team members are Jeremy Burby, Riley Lukomski, Zachary Barhite, and Connor Gilbreath, all seniors. Each team member received a $2,000 college savings account contribution from the Nebraska Educational Savings Trust (NEST). Their teacher Matt Pedlow received an Apple iPad tablet, also from NEST.

In an interview after the awards presentation, team members said they were “unbelievably happy” to have placed first, and they attributed their strong showing to their solid research, their presentation skills, and their ability to answer questions from the judges effectively. They said they prepared their PowerPoint presentation with the hypothetical family in mind, choosing their words and recommendations to suit their audience.

Second place in the national competition that drew schools from 17 states went to BASIS Scottsdale of Scottsdale, Arizona, and third place went to Clarinda High School in Clarinda, Iowa.

Members of the BASIS Scottsdale team are Alexander Burt, a sophomore, and Jion Vicente and Shivank Agrawal, both ninth graders. Each received a $1,000 NEST college savings account. Their teacher, Dana Johnson, also received an Apple iPad courtesy of NEST.

Team members said they hoped to be back next year. They attributed their success to being thorough with their information and their solid understanding of a wide range of concepts, from retirement to taxes to the cost of education. They said they stayed up late Thursday night poring over Nebraska statistics to apply in their presentation.

Members of the Clarinda team are Austin Gutknecht, Hunter Crawford, Raymond Nellis, and Jesse Espinosa, all seniors. Each received a $500 NEST college savings account. An Apple iPad was presented to their teacher, Joelene Carper.

Carper said the Clarinda team benefits from team members who have strengths in different areas. Two members have taken second-year calculus, one member has had two years of accounting, two have given FFA presentations, and some have been active in theater and performance.

“They are used to being in front of groups,” she said.

“I want to congratulate all the students who participated in the national competition and thank them for their hard work, knowledge, creativity, and resourcefulness,” said Nebraska State Treasurer Don Stenberg, Trustee of NEST and one of the judges in the competition finals.

“The students were well prepared, and their presentations were thoughtful, detailed, and easy to understand. I also want to acknowledge the teachers who encouraged their students to enter the competition, helped them prepare, and guided them along the way,” Stenberg said. 

Jennifer Davidson, president of the Nebraska Council on Economic Education, said the event, which began with a welcoming dinner Thursday night, was “fantastic,” describing the competition as “fierce.” This is the eighth year for the event and the first time in Lincoln. Previously it took place in Kansas City or St. Louis.

Wells Fargo was the signature corporate sponsor for the national competition. Other sponsors include the UNL College of Business Dean’s Start Something Fund, Nelnet, TIAA, and the Omaha Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

Earlier, the National Association of State Treasurers (NAST) passed a resolution endorsing the National Personal Finance Challenge and encouraging students in their states to enter. “The future of our national economy, our state economies, and the economic well-being of constituents in member states depends on a well-informed citizenry that understands basic financial and economic concepts and can navigate in an increasingly complex and diverse financial environment,” the resolution said.

Students reached the national competition by placing first in their state competitions, sponsored by their state Council on Economic Education. In the national event, the students were presented with a hypothetical family financial scenario and given two hours to come up with a resolution to the family’s financial situation. In the preliminary round, teams were randomly divided into three groups and presented their findings to judges. The top team in each group then presented to a panel of elite judges in the final round.

Judges for final presentations were Treasurer Stenberg; Dr. Kathy Farrell, Dean of the College of Business; Dr. Nathan Kauffman, assistant vice president and branch executive at the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City – Omaha Branch; Kirk Kellner, region bank president of Wells Fargo; Darlene Goins, senior vice president and head of hands on banking, Wells Fargo, San Francisco; and Richard Baier, president of the Nebraska Bankers Association.

Representing Nebraska in the competition was Millard Academy of Entrepreneurship at Millard South High School and teacher, Seth Woodke.

Students from the following schools competed:

Hartselle High School, Hartselle, Alabama

BASIS, Scottsdale, Arizona

Monta Vista High School, Cupertino, California

Dunwoody High School, Dunwoody, Georgia

West Chicago High School, West Chicago, Illinois

Clarinda High School, Clarinda, Iowa

LaPlata High School, LaPlata, Maryland

Chelsea High School, Chelsea, Michigan

Albany High School, Albany, Minnesota

West Lauderdale High School, Collinsville, Mississippi

Hannibal Career & Technical School, Hannibal, Missouri

Hellgate High School, Missoula, Montana

Millard Academy of Entrepreneurship, Millard, Nebraska

Madeira High School, Cincinnati, Ohio

Mustang High School, Mustang, Oklahoma

East Greenwich High School, East Greenwich, Rhode Island

Nansemond River High School, Suffolk, Virginia

About NEST 529

NEST 529 is a tax-advantaged 529 college savings plan and provides four plans to help make saving for college simple and affordable: NEST Direct College Savings Plan, the NEST Advisor College Savings Plan, the TD Ameritrade 529 College Savings Plan, and the State Farm 529 Savings Plan. The Nebraska State Treasurer serves as Program Trustee. First National Bank of Omaha serves as Program Manager, and all investments are approved by the Nebraska Investment Council. Families nationwide are saving for college using Nebraska’s 529 College Savings Plans, which have more than 281,000 accounts, including over 93,000 in Nebraska. Visit NEST529.com and treasurer.nebraska.gov for more information.

About Nebraska Council on Economic Education

The Nebraska Council on Economic Education and its five centers are focused on directly educating Nebraska’s students and providing professional development for K-12 teachers to advance economic and financial literacy. The Nebraska Council on Economic Education is a 501(c)3 non-profit, housed at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, College of Business Administration. Visit nebraskacouncil.unl.edu for more information.

  • Jana Langemach
  • Director of Communications
  • 402-471-8884