Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Attorney General Beau Biden addresses state champs

Maryland wins!!

Maryland Takes National LifeSmarts Title in Philadelphia!

Philadelphia, PA—The student team from Frederick, MD was crowned national LifeSmarts champions in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Tuesday, April 24. After a tough final match against the second-place team from Jacksonville, FL, the teens from the Maryland Home Schoolers outscored their opponents and did it with great sportsmanship. Teams from Pennsylvania and Rhode Island placed third.
"We are so proud of these students from Maryland, who represented their state program with class and pride," said LifeSmarts Program Director Lisa Hertzberg. "They played hard and demonstrated their consumer smarts throughout the four-day event. They are true LifeSmarts champions."
LifeSmarts is a program run by the Washington, DC-based National Consumers League (NCL), the nation’s oldest consumer advocate. It competitively tests high school students’ knowledge of coansumer awareness, with subjects including personal finance, health and safety, consumer rights and responsibility, technology, and the environment.
Teens from each of the 32 state champion teams represented at nationals competed as individuals, and the top five scorers received $500 scholarships from NCL. This year’s winners were:

  • Environment: Morgan Macumber, AZ
  • Personal Finance: Christopher Carsey, AZ
  • Health and Safety: Maura Taylor, MD
  • Consumer Rights and Responsibilities: Noah Shute, AZ
  • Technology: Nathaniel Anderson, TN

“NCL’s LifeSmarts program is allowing us to rear a generation of consumer-savvy teenagers who often outsmart their parents on issues related to avoiding fraud, credit and debt, and complicated health care decisions,” said NCL Executive Director Sally Greenberg. In the 18 years that LifeSmarts has been educating high school and middle school teens on consumer issues, it has grown dramatically, with more than 3 million consumer questions at www.lifesmarts.org in the online competition during the 2011-2012 academic year.
Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden addressed the consumer savvy state teams and helped crown Maryland the 2012 National LifeSmarts Champions. "I'd like to start by congratulating the winners from the state of Maryland who I had the privilege of sitting with. Congratulations, Maryland."
Biden applauded the state champion teams for "being so engaged and educated about your finances and how to be a good consumer and how to teach your brothers and sisters and classmates and sometimes your parents. You have to know what your rights are, and what you’re entitled to. We deal with people all the time who don’t feel empowered to question the negative answer or nonresponse. Behind the 10,000 or so complaints my office receives are, I’m confident, many times more citizens who don’t know what their rights are. That’s why what we do here is so critical, not just for young people but for old people.
For team photos, event schedules, grid standings, and more, log on to the official event blog.
All winners at the national LifeSmarts Competition received valuable prizes donated by sponsors to the National Consumers League, including scholarships, gift cards, and more. To learn more about the program, contact NCL's Lisa Hertzberg at 202-835-3323. For a complete listing of this year's prizes, visit www.lifesmarts.org.
About LifeSmarts and the National Consumers League
LifeSmarts is a program of the National Consumers League. State coordinators run the programs on a volunteer basis. For more information, visit: www.lifesmarts.org, email  lifesmarts@nclnet.org , or call the National Consumers League's communications department at 202-835-3323. The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

Finals live!

Watch now: Maryland vs. Florida www.lifesmarts.org!

Semi-finals over! Up next: MD vs. FL in final match!

UPDATE: Maryland has knocked out Rhode Island and will face Florida in the finals, streaming live at www.lifesmarts.org!

UPDATE: Florida has knocked out Pennsylvania and will move on to the finals! Now watching Maryland and Rhode Island battle it out for a chance to face off with Florida.

If you're not watching already, head over here to check out the action live! First up: Pennsylvania and Florida!

Final day about to begin

Our VIP officials - including Philadelphia CBS consumer reporter Jim Donovan, Head Judge Nancy Tippett of Toyota Financial Services, Western Union's Shelley Bernhardt, and others - are reviewing competition materials and getting ready to spring into action in the first match-up between Florida and Pennsylvania. Check out the live streaming at www.lifesmarts.org!

Monday, April 23, 2012

LifeSmarts Dance Party in progress

Togas optional

Go Team LifeSmarts!

We love our State Coordinators!

Meet the semi-finalists

Florida's Paxon Advanced Studies faces Pennsylvania's Dallas High School.


Battle of the northeast: Barrington High School in Rhode Island facing Maryland Home Schoolers from Frederick.
Rhode Island

Final 4 determined!

The scores are in! Final four semi-finalists are:

Maryland, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. Don't forget to watch the action live online tomorrow starting at 9 am at www.lifesmarts.org

Top 8 teams are revealed

Quarterfinals are on!

The following match-ups between the Elite 8 are about to begin! Check back for updates!

Washington vs. Florida
Pennsylvania vs. New Hampshire
Maryland vs. Arizona
New York vs. Rhode Island

The big reveal

We are moments away from the reveal of the top 8 teams. Who will be eliminated and who will advance? EEEEEK!

Thanks, Coordinators

Brenda Shuler (CT), Gwen Worlds (FL), Kathleen Belanger (NH)
Our wonderful LifeSmarts state partners organize and implement LifeSmarts at the state level -- which includes marketing and promoting LifeSmarts in their states, serving as the local contact for their state's coaches, and planning and conducting the annual in-person state LifeSmarts competition -- and many of them travel to the national championship to help serve as officials and root for their teams.

LifeSmarts Coordinators do so much for us. Thanks, you guys!

Thank you, Coordinators!

Awesome alumni getting in on the action

They just can't say goodbye -- and we are so grateful for it! Former LifeSmarts super stars Evan, from Kansas, and Hafsa, from Connecticut, lent us their valuable time at the 2012 National LifeSmarts Championship, snapping photos, tweeting scores, and making the LifeSmarts staff work room a funner -- and funnier -- place to be.

Thanks, you guys!

Evan, whipping up some magic tweets.

Hafsa, second from left, with this year's Connecticut state champs.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Vote for your favorite shirt!

Make sure to vote for your favorite tshirt for the People's Choice award. Ballots are available at registration and the deadline is noon Monday!

Arizona team 'having a blast'

Send us your photos!

Making new friends, reconnecting with old ones, and capturing memories at the 2012 National LifeSmarts Championship? Be sure to share your best pictures with us! Post them on our Facebook page, or email them to media@nclnet.org so we can share the LifeSmarts love!

Shout out to LifeSmarts sponsors

The LifeSmarts program wouldn't be possible without generous contributions from all our sponsors. The 2012 LifeSmarts National Championship is sponsored by:


Lead Sponsor
Western Union

LifeSmarts Champion
American Century Investments Foundation

Team Builder
McNeil Consumer Healthcare
Toyota Financial Services

Question Master
Bridgestone Retail Operations

American Express
CBM Credit Education Foundation

Underwriters Laboratories

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Day One standings

Team photo gallery live!

Our masterful photographer Eddie has captured everyone's good sides, and this year's lineup of state champion photos is now live! Check your gorgeous self and your teammates (and opponents) out over here in our Facebook photo gallery -- and be sure to tag yourself!

Meet the PA host team

"We're from Dallas -- that's PA, not Texas," said Pennsylvania team captain Decklan Cerza at the coach and captain orientation Saturday night. The PA team from Dallas High School in the north east part of the state (near Scranton, for fans of NBC's The Office) made a short 2.5-hour drive to get to Philadelphia for the 2012 event. Other state champions came from as far as Honolulu, Hawaii!

Thanks for having us, PA! Wonder where we'll be in 2013 ... ?

What's at stake in 2012

LifeSmarts Program Director Lisa Hertzberg shows off this year's top trophy.
Exciting prizes and scholarships are on the line this year at the 2012 National LifeSmarts Championship in Philadelphia! Check this out -- and good luck to all!

First place team - each member receives:
$2,200 in scholarships from Visa, Toyota Financial Services, and Underwriters Laboratories
Gift cards valued at $200
Coach: $1,000 educational grant, gift cards worth more than $100, and a sweet treat gift pack

Second place team - each member receives:
$1,000 in scholarships
Coach: gift cards worth more than $100, and a sweet treat gift pack

Two third place teams - each member receives:
$550 in scholarships
Coach: gift cards worth more than $100, and a sweet treat gift pack

Four fourth place teams - each member receives:
$200 in scholarships 
Coach: gift cards worth more than $100

Topic champions and coach, student, and coordinator of the year each receive fabulous prizes as well!

Checking in and getting settled

FCCLA team from Friona, Texas, checking out the scoreboard and bracket system.

Donna Mancuso and her team from Crosby High in Connecticut getting registered with the lovely Miss Tee, NCL's Office Manager.

The growing mountain of luggage, from near and far all over the United States, as students check in at the Sheraton.

It's really happening!

Alabama has arrived!
The teams are landing in Philly! Team activities will soon begin, and the competition is almost officially underway! Remember to turn in your coach of the year forms by 1pm Monday at the registration desk, and don't forget to check the online scoreboard here to keep track of your team's progress!

Hello from Florida!

Submitted by Neemah Najafi, Florida

We are a team of 4 seniors and 1 freshman from Paxon School for Advanced Studies. We live in Jacksonville, Florida and competed in Tampa and won the title of 2012 Florida Champions. For all of us, this is our first year on a LifeSmarts team. However, our coach Kathryn Loggie has been doing LifeSmarts for several years now. Last year, our school’s team won the Florida title and got 4th place in the national championship.

To prepare, we meet after school with snacks and drinks and practice doing buzzer questions, multiple choice questions, team activities, and lightning rounds. Each of us on the team picked one of the five categories of LifeSmarts topics to specialize in so as to have a more well-rounded team. We are really excited to go to Philadelphia and look forward to meeting the rest of the teams, especially our sister team, Arizona. And of course we can’t wait to find a great Philly cheesesteak!

Our state coordinator is Gwendolyn Worlds.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Welcome to the City of Brotherly Love!

Let the games begin!

The LifeSmarts team has officially landed in beautiful Philadelphia! (Beautiful, but not for long - check the weather forecast below and consider packing your galoshes and umbrellas.) Teams are being spotted trickling in as well. The 2012 National LifeSmarts Championship kicks off tomorrow. See you tomorrow at the registration desk starting at 12pm. Be sure to get your team photo taken!

We are the Wildcats

Submitted by the Massachusetts team

We are the Wildcats from Milton, Massachusetts. Milton is one of the top places to live in the country, according to Money Magazine. Besides our great school system, I think Money Magazine sees that we are a smaller community less than 10 min. from Boston, have a State Park, The Blue Hills, for skiing and hiking, and in ten minutes we can be at the ocean. In the neighboring community, the city of Quincy, you find the birthplaces of Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams. If you check the statistics in Boston Magazine, they have Milton listed as one of the top school system in the state.

We also have this really young rapper named Younggod aka Dmoney. Our school system differs from others as Milton is the home to one of the few public French Immersion programs in the country which means you can have all your lessons taught in French in the younger grades to help you become bi-lingual. We also have the highest concentration of Irish in the country (40 percent).

Our team members are Jack Caljouw (Sophomore), Aaron Chiu (Senior), Pat Kelly(Senior), Devon Stanley (Junior), and Mona Yuan, (Junior). Most of us became involved with Lifesmarts through classes taught by Mr. Arenburg. He had us doing practice quizzes in our classes. which led to an interest of a Lifesmarts' club after school.

We have prepared for this competition by practicing with buzzers, Teamsmarts, and online quizzes. Our key strategy is repetition so we will be familiar with the tournament format and the questions. However, the Lifesmarts'competition here in Massachusetts was extremely tough. In the competition we were not always aware of our score, so we would be really nervous and scared. Our opponents were CHALLENGING CONTESTANTS, especially since most of them had more experience than us. In the final round of the state tournament, we were practically tied with our opposing team until the end. It was really nerve-racking. As a team, this year was our second time competing at the state level and it will be our first time at the Nationals.

Our coaches are Mr. Arenburg and Mrs. Mikels. Mr. Arenburg teaches Personal Finance and Technology. He started Lifesmarts as an extracurricular activity at our high school in 2006. Mrs. Mikels is a math teacher and has assisted Mr. Arenburg for the past four years with this club.

We are looking forward to traveling to Philadelphia. Not only do we get to miss school, we get an extended vacation. We feel honored to be able to represent the State of Massachusetts and our High School. We are excited to meet new people and to see how we will do in the competition.

Thank you for hosting us. It should be a great four days.

Can't join us in Philly? Stay up to date online

Even if you can’t join the National Consumers League and the LifeSmarts state champions in Philadelphia for the 2012 National LifeSmarts Championship, you can still catch the action online!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Semi-finals- 9 am Eastern Daylight
Finals- 10:45 am EDT

Nationals Blog
Here at www.lifesmartsnationals.blogspot.com, NCL will provide frequently updated content, like team photos, stories, and a regularly updated competition grid, so you can chart your team’s progress from home!
Live Streaming!
This year, watch the final morning of competition live online at www.lifesmarts.org!
Stay tuned in to this blog and lifesmarts.org to keep up with this year's excitement!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thanks, Visa!

The LifeSmarts program has a lot to be thankful for this year—consumer-savvy teens representing 32 states will compete at this year’s national event later this week in Philadelphia. Program participation throughout the 2011-2012 year has been excellent: more than 15,000 teens answered more than 3 million consumer questions online for a chance to represent their states at the 2012 National LifeSmarts Championship.

Looking towards the future, LifeSmarts shows every sign of growing bigger and better than ever. Last season, Visa announced a three-year major grant to help underwrite the program, sponsor development of personal finance lessons and teaching tools, increase marketing efforts for LifeSmarts, and bolster NCL’s outreach on consumer fraud. With Visa’s help, LifeSmarts is looking forward to providing future generations of teens with the skills and knowledge they will need to successfully navigate the increasingly complex consumer landscape.

Thanks, Visa! See you in Philly!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

‘Seven minutes in heaven’ for your brain: Speed Dating the Experts

Every year, dozens of highly-respected experts serve as LifeSmarts judges. They come from all over the country, and bring a strong knowledge of business, consumer, and government policy to our tournaments. This year, in addition to their traditional duties behind the judges’ table, they'll also be “working the room” during our new competition. It’s a fast-paced event we're calling “Speed Dating the Experts.”

So here’s how LifeSmarts speed-dating works: each expert will be at a table, and teams will have exactly seven minutes to complete the activity before them, earning as many points as possible. Though each team will meet ten of the experts, there are only five game formats. The game you play depends on the expert you’re with at the time.

These are the five games:
  1. Just Say It: It’s just like “Password.” Remember that game? Me neither. Look it up online, Betty White used to play it all the time.
  2. Take A Spin: Players use a spinner to determine which topic they will tackle.
  3. Jolt to the Brain: Just like the popular Lightning Rounds: ten rapid-fire questions in a row.
  4. Slam: Teams are given very short clues (very short--like three letters) and have to identify the concept.
  5. Picture This: Teams have to decipher pictures and explain the concept of six image sets--like this one:

Get it? War and tea = warranty!
Don't forget to explain what it is.
As a kicker, some of the experts will have a “Super Seven” bonus. The team will have to guess a word or phrase, and the expert can give them clues...for a price. For each clue, the bonus goes down by one point. Since teams will only have one chance to guess at a Super Seven, strategy will be crucial.

The highest possible score teams can earn (without bonuses) in this competition is 120 points, but hopefully teams will get more from it than mere points. This is an opportunity for teams to better know the people who make LifeSmarts possible every year, and who knows? One may make some new friends along the way.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Meet the Arizona state champs

Submitted by Scott Bearchell, Arizona team captain

The FiveGuys are a team from Flagstaff, Arizona. We are an Internet team since our state doesn't have a state competition. Our state is the 48th in the Union and we are celebrating our Centennial this year! Scott Bearchell, team captain, and Christopher Carsey have been on the Arizona team before; Christopher in Miami and Scott in Miami and LA. Morgan Maycumber, Noah Shute, and Paul Bearchell are new this year, but all of them have had a sibling who was on the team in years past. Scott, Christopher, and Paul play varsity tennis for Flagstaff High School. Morgan, along with the rest of the team, plays on a competitive airsoft team. Since Christopher is a long distance runner, our team must run up the Art museum's "Rocky" steps in Philadelphia. Our team is extremely excited to be a part of the LifeSmarts National competition in Philadelphia and are looking forward to meeting other teams including our sister team, Florida, and representing the state of Arizona in the competition.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Marshall High School takes Virginia

By Brandi Williams, LifeSmarts Program Manager
This was my third year attending the Virginia LifeSmarts state competition in Richmond. Held on the gorgeous University of Richmond campus on a beautiful early spring day, teams from across Virginia competed for the chance to represent the Commonwealth at the National LifeSmarts Championship in Philadelphia.

Following the Nationals format, the Virginia competition used cumulative scoring to determine its finalists. This added tons of excitement to the competition, since it allowed all teams to remain in the running for most of the day! The Honorable Matt Lohr, Commissioner of Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences, served as Question Master for the Final match between the Marshall High School Statesmen I team and the Henrico County 4-H WYSIWIG team, and the match was close! But the Statesmen I took the competition and title of Virginia State Champion by one question, and I look forward to seeing them again at Nationals!

As always, I had a fantastic time at the competition in Richmond. The dedicated members of the Virginia LifeSmarts Coalition always strive to give the amazing teams who attend the annual competition a meaningful, educational and, most of all, fun experience, and they succeeded again this year. Thanks to the leadership of Dr. Celia Ray Hayhoe, Virginia’s long-time state LifeSmarts coordinator, everyone had an amazing time. I can’t wait to do it again next year!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Good luck from LifeSmarts alumni

Video greetings from college students Gabi Sclafani, LifeSmarts first Consumer Rights & Responsibilities topic winner, and Ben Shand, a member of the 2010 Rhode Island LifeSmarts state champion team. The two sent this congratulations video to this year's RI state champs in preparation for nationals in Philadelphia. Thanks, RI State Coordinator Jim Hedemark, for sharing this fun video with us! It's a good luck video aimed at Barrington High School champs, but it has some good advice for everyone. Thanks, Gabi and Ben!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Remembering Dr. Celia Ray Hayhoe

Dr. Celia Ray Hayhoe, left, with NCL Board Chair Anna Flores,
at the 2011 LifeSmarts Summit in Los Angeles.

By Brandi Williams, LifeSmarts Program Manager

It was with great sadness that we recently learned that long-time LifeSmarts Virginia state coordinator, Dr. Celia Ray Hayhoe, passed away on March 16, 2012. Dr. Hayhoe was one of the most caring people I have ever met. In 2009 she invited me to my very first LifeSmarts competition in Richmond, and welcomed my questions (and sometimes befuddlement) with warmth and kindness. It was such a surprise to hear of Dr. Hayhoe's passing, as I’d seen her only the week prior at the 2012 Virginia LifeSmarts competition, working hard to make the event as special and memorable for the participants as she possibly could.

Dr. Hayhoe worked tirelessly to support the people and programs she cared about. Although she was stepping down as the Virginia LifeSmarts coordinator this summer, she assured me that she was planning to remain an active member of the Virginia LifeSmarts Coalition. Her daughter Janice shared with me that Dr. Hayhoe truly cared about LifeSmarts. “I’m sure there is a big part of her that will always be a part of the programs that she really loved and supported,” Janice wrote. “My mom took her work very seriously and she truly cared for the people she worked with and the people they helped. Her dream was to help others feel safe and have some security in their lives so that they could follow their dreams; she accomplished this dream every day of her life. I know her spirit will forever live on in our hearts.”

Since joining the LifeSmarts team in 2005, Dr. Hayhoe went above and beyond the call of duty, making contributions to the program that would have a lasting impact. At the first ever LifeSmarts Summit in 2011, Dr. Hayhoe strongly encouraged LifeSmarts staff to build into the program’s curriculum a stronger emphasis on real-life consumer issues teens face immediately upon entering adulthood, such as renter’s rights.

“Celia was a staunch, thoughtful advocate for consumer education, and she challenged us to improve the LifeSmarts program over the years,” said Lisa Hertzberg, LifeSmarts Director, who worked with Celia during her seven years as LifeSmarts coordinator. “Celia had a measurable impact on the program, in her state, and at the national level, and LifeSmarts is a richer, better program thanks to her.”

Dr. Hayhoe was an associate professor and Family Resource Management Extension Specialist at Virginia Tech. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Arizona in Family and Consumer Resources with a minor in Finance and was a Certified Financial Planner and faculty member in the Department of Apparel, Housing and Resource Management. Dr. Hayhoe recently developed the Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Financial Education Volunteers Program with Extension’s Family Financial Management Leadership Team and AmeriCorp Vista partnership.

Dr. Hayhoe touched many lives very deeply, including my own. She will be sorely missed.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

March Smartness VIII in Rhode Island

By Jim Hedemark, RI Jump$tart Coalition Executive Director and Rhode Island LifeSmarts Coordinator

AG Peter Kilmartin, Jeffrey and Rita
Michaelson, Marcia Reback,
and Sec. of State A. Ralph Mollis
LifeSmarts prepares teenagers for their futures, and yet at this year's Ocean State competition our proudest moments came as we paid tribute to the past. On Friday, March 30 at the Rhode Island State House before our final match, we held a special ceremony in the House Chambers to unveil the newly renamed, Julius C. Michaelson Consumers' Cup after former Attorney General Michaelson (1975-1979), who passed away last November. 

State Champion Captain Brenden
Forte fills in the champion bracket.
Rhode Island Secretary of State, A. Ralph Mollis and Attorney General, Peter F. Kilmartin read messages by former Attorney General Michaelson to the General Assembly from the mid 1970's through which he communicated the newly formed Division of Consumer Protection's initial efforts, and proposed legislation including assertive action to create (among other items), open meetings of the utilities companies, freshness dates on food, "bait and switch" schemes, debt collection abuse, and corporate responsibility. Both state officers underscored the similarities between the economy of the '70's and today citing high unemployment, rising gas prices, and the rising cost of health care.

Hedemark with Jeffrey and
Rita Michaelson
Marcia Reback, former President of the RI Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, AFT, AFL-CIO, spoke about the Michaelson Act, which was passed in 1966 when Michaelson was a State Senator, giving teachers the right to collective bargaining. We are proud that Mrs. Julius C. Michaelson (Rita), and Michaelson's son Jeffrey joined us during the ceremony.

At the 2012 LifeSmarts Rhode Island State Finals, which we affectionately call March Smartness VIII, buzzers buzzed and brackets were busted, even yielding a Cinderella story. Rounding out our "Frenetic Four" are; Burrillville who claimed fourth place for the second time in eight years. Mt. Hope shocked LifeSmarts nation by claiming third place in their first-ever trip to the state finals. East Greenwich, who lost their opening round, battled their way back to the final match, but ultimately fell to Barrington who went undefeated all day and claimed the state championship for the third time in eight years.  They took home the Michaelson Consumers' Cup and include students:

Captain Brenden Forte, Rahul Chander, Matthew Groetelaars, Stephen Lamontagne (all seniors), and junior Jack Liang. Coached by Business Teacher, Karen Proule, the Barrington Eagles are eagerly preparing for nationals and look forward to meeting fellow competitors from across the nation!