This spring, eleven teams from Delaware high schools qualified to compete in the first virtual Delaware Personal Finance Challenge (PFC) sponsored by Bank of America and presented by the Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship (CEEE) at the University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics. The winning team from the Charter School of Wilmington went on to compete in the National Personal Finance Challenge, where they were named finalists.
The Delaware PFC returned in a new, virtual format in 2021 after concerns around the COVID-19 pandemic caused the previous year’s competition to be canceled. Assistant Professor of Economics and Associate Director of the CEEE Bonnie Meszaros noted that the staff at the CEEE were adamant that this year’s competition take place and worked tirelessly to adapt the PFC to a virtual format.
In addition to Bank of America’s financial support of the Delaware PFC, over a dozen Bank of America volunteers joined CEEE and Lerner College events staff to run the virtual competition. The PFC, which has been hosted by the CEEE in Delaware for over a decade, tests student knowledge on topics related to earning income, protecting and insuring, using credit and buying goods and services, and saving and financial investing.
“Despite being online, the Delaware Personal Finance Challenge was both incredibly well organized and creatively administered,” said Ryan Balu, Delaware PFC state champion. “While preparing for the competition, my eyes were opened to various principles of saving, investment, taxation and retirement, sparking a passion in finance and an interest in a financial career.“
Every teacher in Delaware teaching a personal finance class was invited to create student teams to participate in the preliminary Delaware PFC online qualification round in March. The CEEE pays all registration and participation fees for those teams who pass the online qualification and are invited to compete in the state-wide challenge. Many of the qualifying teams come from classrooms in which teachers are using the Keys to Financial Success curriculum.
A joint development effort between the CEEE and the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, the Keys to Financial Success program is designed to develop the critical-thinking, problem-solving and decision-making skills that high school students need “to make sound financial decisions and manage their own personal finances,” according to Keys program literature. This program has been offered to schools in Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania since 2001.
The 11 teams who qualified from the online testing in March met virtually on Thursday, April 22nd for a proctored round of testing in breakout rooms moderated by Bank of America and CEEE employees. Students participated in various ways—some from home and others from their respective classrooms. The top three teams were announced at the end of the day and moved forward to the championship round to vie for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place the following day.
“The competition was very educational and fun,” said Dharm Patel, one of Balu’s teammates. “Most questions required very basic knowledge which can be acquired from taking a business course. However, the questions are very useful to gain knowledge of personal finance, which is used by many adults in their adulthood and even young people.”
After another day of fierce competition, teachers, parents and school administrators were invited to attend the championship round awards ceremony webinar. Leaders from the CEEE and Bank of America also joined the awards ceremony and shared how impressed they were by all of the students who participated.
“It was fascinating to watch you working as teams,” said Connie Montana, community relations manager and senior vice president at Bank of America. “Not only do you have the financial education piece, you’ve got the team building piece, you’ve got the analytical piece, and you are well grounded for success in life. On behalf of Bank of America, that is what we wish for you as you continue on your journey in life.”
Announced first at the awards ceremony was the third place team from Middletown High School, led by their teacher Veronica Marine. The team included students Ivanna Kaburia, Karina Hallett, Lindsey Hallett and Tsai-Ni Chen, who along with Marine each received a prize of $100. Winning second place and a prize of $250 each was a team including Emily Pierce, Rick Lee, Shane Riley and Tony Yin from Appoquinimink High School, led by their teacher Ann Terranova.
Saved for last was the announcement of the first place team, Atharva Shanbhag, Dharm Patel, Justin Xu and Ryan Balu from Charter School of Wilmington, led by their teacher Michael Kiersznowski, UD Class of 2009 MAEEE. In addition to trophies and a cash prize of $500 each, the Delaware PFC state champion team moved on to the National Personal Finance Challenge, where they were announced as finalists.
Shanbhag shared during the awards ceremony that, “The Personal Finance Challenge, and the preparation involved, provided an excellent and highly crucial gateway to the world of personal finance, which will prove important throughout adulthood.”
“On behalf of the CEEE, I want to say how extremely proud we are of this team’s advancement to the national finals,” said CEEE Personal Finance Program Coordinator Gail Colbert. “This is the first time that a Delaware state champion team has been named a finalist in the highly competitive National Personal Finance Challenge. I was so impressed with the dedication and determination of this team; they worked every day to prepare for the competition, reviewing online practice tests, study guides, and video reviews. I sincerely hope that the experience and knowledge they gained from studying personal finance and participating in this academic competition will last them a lifetime.”