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Meet H&R Block Budget Challenge Scholarship Winner: Joseph Cain

Joseph Cain, a student at Paxon School for Advanced Studies, was determined to win a scholarship through the H&R Block Budget Challenge. He had played last year, but this year Cain made sure he paid his bills, stuck to a budget and took the quizzes. The hard work paid off and this year, he won a $20,000 scholarship!

See what he said he learned from the H&R Block Budget Challenge simulation.

Do you think your peers are financially literate?

I definitely don’t think they are. I talk to my friends a lot about finances and they recognize they don’t really know a lot. Recently, my friend blew his car transmission and was talking to his dad about how he was going to pay for it; I asked if they had a certain type of insurance to cover it because it would help fix that. Turns out he’d have to pay a lot less if they did have it.

What kind of financial education or background did you have prior to taking the Budget Challenge?

I had a little because I’ve been participating in Ms. Loggie’s LifeSmarts club since I was a freshman. Also, my dad works in the financial industry so he keeps me knowledgeable on the subject.

Do you talk to your parents about money ever?

I do. My dad and I talk about it sometimes if the conversation comes up. My parents are really informative.

What’s the best piece of financial advice you’ve gotten from your dad?

He’s taught me that it’s really about trying to stay out of debt, but it’s also about managing the risk and reward when spending your money.


What did you think when your teacher introduced the H&R Block Budget Challenge simulation to your club?

Originally last year I thought it was interesting. I didn’t think we had any chance of winning a scholarship or grant this year so I wasn’t excited initially. In the end I’m glad we did it!

What was your motivation for participating in the simulation?

My whole class was actually in it together, helping and motivating each other along the way. It was a team effort.
What was the most important thing you learned from the Budget Challenge?

The most important thing I learned is that there’s going to be a lot of unexpected things that happen to you along the way so it’s important to be prepared for any circumstances.

How did you react when you found out you won a scholarship?

The day before I was in position 30 and so I accepted that it was a bit too far off for me to win. But the next morning Ms. Loggie called me and told me to look at the scores. I was really surprised. I kept checking it for the next couple days because I couldn’t believe it!

What are your plans for after high school?

I’m planning on going to University of Central Florida to study political science and then go to law school after that.

How has winning the scholarship impacted your post-grad plans?

It’s a large sum of money and since I plan on doing extra schooling after I get my bachelor’s degree, it’s really going to help me pay for it.

Do you think the skills you learned in the Budget Challenge will be beneficial to your real life?

Absolutely. The simulation is pretty similar to real life. No matter who you ask, they’ll say it’s pretty accurate and can teach you so many lessons.

What advice do you have to other students who might take the Budget Challenge?

You have to be prepared and just look ahead and figure out when you have to pay certain things so you’re never caught off guard with bills.


Meet H&R Block Budget Challenge Scholarship Winner: Tuffa Said

Through the H&R Block Budget Challenge learning financial literacy is both fun and applicable to real life! If you don’t believe us, just ask Paxon School for Advanced Studies senior Tuffa Said.

By paying his bills on time and being financially savvy, Said climbed to the top of the ranks in the simulation and won a $20,000 college scholarship. He is also part of the Life Smarts club coached by Ms. Kathryn Loggie, which won a $5,000 classroom grant.

Read below to learn more about his experience.

Did you have any knowledge about managing money before participating in the Budget Challenge?

I had a very small amount of financial knowledge before the Budget Challenge. I mostly learned what I knew from the Life Smarts club and my teacher Ms. Loggie.

Do you ever talk to your parents about money? If so, what kind of things do you talk about?

I’ve started to do it more recently. Since I’m going to the university, we talk about tax returns, what forms are required and how to fill out the FAFSA correctly.

Was this your first year participating in the Budget Challenge?

No, I participated last year as well. This year I made sure I paid my auto insurance!

When you started the simulation, did you think you would win?

At first I was really determined to win. Then, in the middle I realized that the bills were starting to appear and that kind of threw me of. I really couldn’t believe it when I saw that I was winning toward the end of the simulation!

What would you say was the biggest thing you learned by participating in the Budget Challenge?

To pay my auto insurance on time! But fortunately, I don’t pay auto insurance in real life, my parents pay it for me.

How have you taken the financial skills you learned and applied them to your real life?

I’ve encouraged my parents to pay their bills on time! It also helped to ensure that I don’t go into credit card debt.

Where do you plan on continuing your education?

I plan on going to the University of North Florida to study electrical engineering.

How has the scholarship changed your financial outlook when it comes to college?

The scholarship will help me focus on my schoolwork rather than having to worry about how I’m going to pay for school.

Now that you’re a financial whiz, do you plan on passing along your wisdom to your friends?

No! I want to keep it all to myself (laughs).


Meet H&R Block Budget Challenge Classroom Grant Winner: Ms. Kathryn Loggie

Teachers often work double-duty to make sure teens are well-equipped with the knowledge they need to succeed. One example is Paxon School for Advanced Studies teacher Kathryn Loggie.

In addition to teaching grades 9-12 journalism and computer science, Loggie is the supervisor for an after school club called LifeSmarts, where students learn about life skills, including finance. It was in this class that Loggie introduced her students to the H&R Block Budget Challenge. Because of her efforts three students walked away with $20,000 scholarships and Loggie won a classroom grant! See what she had to say about the program.

Do you think the students in your community are well-versed in money management?

Definitely not. Teens today need to know about credit, credit cards and how easy it is to get into debt. Students preparing for college need to know about student loans, how they’re going to pay them back, and the implications of not paying them back.

How did you find out about the H&R Block Budget Challenge?

I got an email last year about it that sounded intriguing. Finance is a subject we’ve been covering in the LifeSmarts club for a number of years. We thought we’d give it a try and we did OK the first year. I was disappointed none of my students last year won scholarships, but we made up for it this year!

How did your students enjoy the simulation?

They really enjoyed it. They liked having that persona in the simulation where they had to guess what they were going to do and spend their money on. A lot of students would say, “Can you believe my person spent that much on entertainment?!”

Have you found that your students have more financial-related conversations after taking the Budget Challenge?

Absolutely. The students can conduct an intelligent conversation on personal finance with anyone now. Sometimes we have guest speakers come in and I tell them that the students really understand it at a high level and don’t need to talk down to them.

As a teacher, what did you enjoy about the simulation?

The quizzes were great. Some of them were very difficult, but we worked through the quizzes and the students really learned from them.

How did you react when you found out your class had multiple winners?

I had students who participated both years, but as far as getting to the top, I don’t know if we even thought that was possible given the number of students who participated in the Budget Challenge. We were so pleasantly surprised when we had three individual scholarship winners!

Would you recommend the Budget Challenge to other teachers? Why?

Just look at the benefits in terms of the scholarships and grant money—that alone is enough to participate. We’ve gotten a lot of publicity at the district level about this too. I’ve even gotten emails from parents asking how they can get their son or daughter involved. It’s well worthwhile!

What do you plan to use the grant money on?

I would like to take the students on field trips, like to the Jacksonville branch of the Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank. I’ll probably also use it to buy additional resource materials for the students.


Meet H&R Block Budget Challenge Classroom Grant Winner: Mr. Deane Western

How do you get your students excited about personal finance? After two years of participating in the H&R Block Budget Challenge, Deane Western, a 10th grade economics and government teacher at the State College of Florida Collegiate School, knows how.

Two of Western’s students won $20,000 college scholarships this year through their hard work. We spoke with him to learn more about how his students enjoyed the simulation and if he’d recommend the program to other teachers.

What was your motivation behind getting your class involved in the H&R Block Budget Challenge?

I’ve got basically one semester to teach students both economics and personal finance and the simulation is perfect for teaching it. The curriculum spends time talking about insurance and credit cards, and all the pieces just lined up perfectly for me to teach personal finance. It brings the knowledge to my students in a tangible way.

Do you see a need for teaching financial literacy at your school?

Yes. It’s huge, particularly for our students, because they’re in 10th grade and it’s the perfect window to teach them those skills. A lot of kids are starting jobs and are on a college campus where they simultaneously earn their associates degree and high school diploma. Right now is when they’re making the transition to working, driving and being on a college campus. When experiencing that type of independence, having personal finance knowledge is crucial.

How did you use the curriculum in your classroom?

This year, I broke it down and spent a day each week doing nothing else but talking about the elements relating to the Budget Challenge. At the beginning of each class, we’d talk about what’s going on in the simulation. The students had a lot of fun with it.

How did you motivate your students to participate?

I told them that if they learned the information, it would pay off in immeasurable ways, both financially and in other ways. You win so much more than $20,000 by participating in the H&R Block Budget Challenge. You learn the skills and education you need.

Have you noticed any feedback from the students’ parents?

Absolutely. One opportunity I give my students is to actually go home and interview their parents about their financial mistakes. I’m hoping that conversation is enlightening for both of them. I read on the H&R Block Dollars & Sense website how many teens learn financial skills from their parents, and I hope there’s an opportunity to learn from those mistakes.

What was the most rewarding part of having your students participate?

Some students were ranked as high as No. 10 at one point in time before they were late on a bill or something, but that was really exciting. This year I had two students who finished at No. 14 and No. 16 and it was just so exciting at the end there to see them perform so well.

How has winning college scholarships changed your students’ plans for continuing their education?

Given the collegiate school we’re at, the students have an opportunity to get their associates degree basically tuition-free; there’s another school that makes an arrangement to pick up the expense for their next two years of education. But after winning, one student said, “No, this makes a difference. I can go to a better ranked undergraduate school, which will then help me complete my bachelor’s degree.” That will then in turn help them get into a better medical school.

Do you think there needs to be some required financial education classes in school across the country?

The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that I think it’s ridiculous that students have to take Algebra I and II, Geometry…a lot of math courses all throughout school, and I only have half a year to teach them personal finance. The number of careers that use geometry is so low, but 100 percent of people need to understand personal finance.

Would you recommend the simulation to other teachers?

One hundred percent yes. Other teachers at my school totally want their students to learn this stuff, too!


New Jersey Mother, Son On H&R Block Winning Streak

They say lightning doesn’t strike twice, but for Lower Cape May High Regional School student Isaac Whitmore and his mother Marilyn Reyes, it does. Whitmore won a $20,000 scholarship from the H&R Block Budget Challenge and is in the running to win the grand prize $100,000 scholarship. Meanwhile, his mother won $1,000 as part of the H&R Block 1,000 Win $1,000 Daily Sweepstakes after filing her taxes with H&R Block.

We spoke to the lucky duo about plans for their winnings and financial literacy education overall.


How did your family react when you told them you had two H&R Block winners in the family?

Marilyn: I posted about it on Facebook and everybody was really excited. I think I ended up posting about Isaac’s win first and then mine. It happened within a week of each other and everyone was saying, “This is your week! This is your month!”

What was your reaction when you found out you won the sweepstakes? 

Marilyn: My thoughts when I entered the sweepstakes were “I don’t ever win anything, but I’ll try.” I’m not a lucky person at all. So when I won I was excited and so happy. I still am!

What did you do with the $1,000 you won?

Marilyn: I shared it. Gave some to my son, gave some to my mother and I paid some bills.

Do you and Isaac talk about finances and money at home?

Marilyn: We usually don’t. I stink at budgeting but he definitely knows how to save money.

Isaac, where did you learn how to save?

Isaac: Honestly, I don’t know. It doesn’t seem like a set of skills that you have to learn. It seems like common sense. Just don’t overspend and that’s what I did in the Budget Challenge. Some people in my class didn’t try or said it was confusing and I just used my common sense.

Marilyn: I pay my bills, but I don’t like to save money!

Were you excited when your teacher announced your class would be taking the Budget Challenge?

 Isaac: My friends and I were talking about how cool it would be if we won first place, and I thought it’d be cool, but what are the odds? When I first played, I played it really nonchalantly and then I started playing seriously after about a week.

Did you tell your mother you were participating in the Budget Challenge? What did she think of it?

 Isaac: I actually didn’t tell her until I knew I was going to win. She didn’t know I was playing a game until a week after the game was over.

 Marilyn: I was kind of like, “Why didn’t you tell me?” He wanted to wait to make sure he was a winner. He’s very good with numbers and once he applies himself he definitely goes for it. I told him to give me a heads up! I wanted to be excited and by his side even if he didn’t win.

Marilyn, you mentioned Isaac is good with numbers? Is that something he gets from you?

Marilyn: I’ve always loved math and he definitely gets that from me.

What was your reaction when you found out you actually won an H&R Block Budget Challenge scholarship, Isaac?

Isaac: I was really excited. I was more excited at the fact that I got first place. Out of 22,000 people, only 22 people win and I happen to be that lucky person.

Marilyn: I was super excited. Not only because of the fact that he won, but just the thought alone that my son is getting the opportunity to even go to college.

How has winning the scholarship changed your education plans after graduation?

Isaac: It definitely makes it easier because now I don’t have to worry about all the extra expenses. It feels like a lot of weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

Do you have any tips or tricks for how you performed so well in the simulation?

Isaac: The Budget Challenge comes with a budgeting spreadsheet, and it helped me keep track of my bills so I wouldn’t miss a payment or a bill. It also helped me manage all my money. Another tip was to check my emails frequently because in the game, you’re only notified of the unexpected events via your email. I checked it frequently because I didn’t want to miss anything.

Do you see a need for financial literacy education in your community?

 Isaac: Yes, very much so because I see many of my friends spend their money on useless things they really don’t need to be buying. You can easily save your money and spend it on something more useful.

Do you think this type of education should be required in schools?

 Isaac: I think all schools should teach it because not all parents know about financial literacy or education. The Budget Challenge teaches real-world skills; some things you learn in school might not be applicable to real life, but financial education, that is something you’ll use for the rest of your life.

Marilyn: I wish I had that when I was in high school!

Isaac, do you think the skills you learned in the Budget Challenge have put you in a better position for when you enter the real world?

 Isaac: One hundred percent. I’ll be able to apply budgeting in the real world because now I’ve gotten to practice.


Meet H&R Block Budget Challenge Scholarship Winner: Angela Lin

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again! That’s the motto Clements High School senior Angela Lin lives by. She participated in the H&R Block Budget Challenge last year and was determined to win this year. All of her hard work paid off, and she earned a $20,000 college scholarship and learned some useful financial skills along the way. We chatted with Angela to find out what she did differently this time around that made her so successful as well as what she thought of the program overall.

How did you feel when you started the Budget Challenge this year versus when you started your first year?

I was like “I understand this!” In the beginning of the first year I participated, I didn’t take it as seriously because I had no knowledge of personal finance. But halfway through the first year, I saw my rank go up, so I took it more seriously.

Do you see a need for financial literacy education among teens your age?

Oh my gosh, yes; that is a 1,000% yes. My high school is pretty diverse, and we have people that come from all incomes, but the amount of people who spend their money like there’s no tomorrow is shocking.

With so many people in debt in America, I believe financial literacy is really important to teach people how to make their money work for them. With the help of financial literacy and planning your budget, you’re able to make sure you never go in debt and don’t buy things with money you don’t have.

Did you talk about money with your parents when you were younger?

The first time I got exposed to the financial world was through my father when I was in elementary or middle school. My parents came from Taiwan and my mother’s English is not that good and sometimes needs help paying the bills and understanding what things mean.

My dad is currently a professor overseas and my brother got into stocks recently. My oldest brother, who is in business school, will also sometimes teach me about money. But what really got me motivated in business and finances is my teacher Mr. Eppes. He made it sound so fun.

What was your reaction when you found out you won a scholarship?

My heart rate shot up 120%. I couldn’t believe it! I kept refreshing the webpage.

What was your parents’ reaction when you told them you won a scholarship?

My mom squealed she was so excited! It’s taking away some of the burden on her, being the only parent I have here in the U.S. and with two other kids in college. She’s really grateful for this program. But even if you don’t win in this simulation, you win in real life by learning important financial skills.

How has this scholarship changed your post-graduation plans?

I’ve always planned on going to college, but this scholarship will help me put less emphasis on trying to work a 40-hour job during college to pay for my tuition. It’ll minimize the amount of student debt so I can utilize my time better.

What advice would you give to other students participating in the Budget Challenge?

You have to have self-confidence and motivate yourself because if you don’t have those, you’re not going to push yourself to try to succeed.

Do you think you learned financial skills in the Budget Challenge that will help you in the real world?

Yes. Another 1,000% yes. The Budget Challenge actually pushed me to research and calculate and start a budget. It made me get into the habit of making a budget in terms of planning, bills and shopping. It’s a tremendous help. I’ve learned more in the last two years that I participated in the Budget Challenge than I have in my whole life.

Learning financial literacy is fun with the H&R Block Budget Challenge. Registration for 2016-2017 simulations opens in March. For more information on how to get involved, visit


Clements High School H&R Block Budget Challenge Winners Receive Their Checks! [GALLERY]

On Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2015, Clements High School seniors Angela Lin and Jonathan Chang were each awarded a $20,000 college scholarship and their teacher, Mr. Greg Eppes, received a classroom grant from the H&R Block Budget Challenge. Check out photos from the event and help us congratulate them on their hard work!


Matt Tetreau

Meet H&R Block Budget Challenge Scholarship Winner: Matt Tetreau

Hard work and long-term planning pay off when taking the H&R Block Budget Challenge. Don’t believe us? Just ask Matt Tetreau from St. Clair High School in Michigan who won a $20,000 scholarship. We spoke with him to learn more about how he was so successful!

Growing up, did you see a need for financial literacy and education among your classmates?

I really think that it’s valuable information, especially since next year many of us will have student loans. Many kids my age don’t really know too much about student loans or living on their own. That’s what inspired me to take Mrs. Volz’s class where we took the Budget Challenge.

Where did your previous financial education come from? Did you take any classes prior to Mrs. Volz’s?

No I didn’t. I didn’t ever really talk to my parents about money either. I’m not much of a spender. During the simulation, I learned almost everything I know though through the class or on my own.

Do you think that the simulation taught you the real world money skills that you need to be successful?

Absolutely. I feel like I can budget on my own now, whereas before I don’t know if I would have been able to manage.

What do you think was the recipe to your success that helped you win the scholarship?

I checked the Budget Challenge every day and made sure that my budget was balanced. I tried a bunch of different strategies and tried to find the strategy that would save me the most money on my budget.

How often did you tweak your budget throughout the simulation?

In the beginning, I planned it all out by how I thought it’d work out — but that didn’t work because unexpected things came up in the Budget Challenge where I had to make refinements. We had one unexpected event to deal with, and our credit card expenses were pretty unpredictable at times. We didn’t know how much we’d get charged for the event, so we had to account for that as well.

Did you work together with your classmates through the simulation?

I actually did work with some. It was really valuable working together and bouncing ideas off each other. Some of my classmates proposed strategies that I didn’t initially think of — and I came up with ways to play that helped others. I think that sharing of ideas among a few of my classmates was part of my success.

What did your parents think when you told them you were taking the H&R Block Budget Challenge?

I told them about the simulation, and they were pretty into it as well. They were asking me what was going on and how I was doing.

How has winning this scholarship changed your post-graduation plans?

I always planned on going to college, but I didn’t plan how I would pay for it. So the scholarship definitely helps.

Where do you plan on going to college and using your scholarship?

I plan on going to Michigan or Grand Valley State and studying computer science. I want to probably be a computer programmer or similar type of job.

Would you recommend this simulation to other students? Why?

Going into this, I didn’t know much at all about budgeting. I learned so much information that will help me throughout my life. I honestly think that every high school student should participate in something like that or at least take a class related to it.

Learning financial literacy is fun with the H&R Block Budget Challenge. To find out more about how your teenagers or students can learn real-world money management skills without the real-world consequences, encourage teachers to register here for the next H&R Block Budget Challenge simulation.