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Texas High School Senior Surprised With $120,000 H&R Block Budget Challenge Grand Prize Scholarship

On Tues., May 17, 2016, four Clements High School students were recognized for their hard work in the H&R Block Budget Challenge and awarded $20,000 scholarships. But one student had no idea she’d be getting a much bigger check. Watch the video to see how surprised she was!


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).


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 HRBDS.org.


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.


What Did South Lyon High School Students Learn from the H&R Block Budget Challenge?

Students from two classes at South Lyon High School in South Lyon, Mich., are part of the newest batch of money management masters thanks to the H&R Block Budget Challenge. Here are the top 5 things that each team learned by participating in the simulation!

Top 5 Things that the Lucid Lyons Team learned:

  1. That you must be very organized and have a strategy in order to properly manage your money. –Justin
  2. How important it is to keep extra money for unexpected expenditures and how big of an impact they can have on your budget. -Maia
  3. How to manage a budget in order to make sure I have enough money for bills and other expenses. –Kayla
  4. That it is very important to stay up-to-date on all of your bills because if you don’t, it’s very difficult to catch up. –Tony
  5. That I will probably go into debt when I’m older, and I need to focus on knowing when to pay my bills. –Aidan

Top 5 Things that the Liberated Lyons Team learned:

  1. Preparing me for the real world. I now know how to pay bills properly. -Charlie
  2. How important it is to manage my money, so I’ll be prepared for the real world. –Karissa
  3. When I get older, I will try not to have as much frivolous spending, like going out to dinner three times a week. –Spencer
  4. The importance of saving early for retirement. It’s never too early to start. –Brooke
  5. Creating and balancing my very own budget from money I earn. –Steve

 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.

(Photo provided by Noah Westrick)

Meet H&R Block Budget Challenge Scholarship Winner: Noah Westrick

St. Clair (Mich.) High School senior Noah Westrick is a personal finance whiz and now has a $20,000 scholarship to show for it through his participation in the H&R Block Budget Challenge! We spoke with him to learn more about what financial skills have made him real-world ready and how the scholarship changed his life.

Would you say your St. Clair classmates are financially savvy?

In many states, financial classes aren’t required, and I think they absolutely should be. I’ve learned so much, and I’m not even halfway through the year. I’d like to see education like this happen around the world. There are no negatives to it.

Did you have any prior financial education before taking the H&R Block Budget Challenge?

I had nothing, pretty much. All I knew was anything that my family told me and anything I found out on my own. I went into this class where we took the H&R Block Budget Challenge to learn as much as I could about finances,and so far that’s helped me. 

When you were introduced to the H&R Block Budget Challenge, how interested were you in participating?

To be honest, at the beginning, I was ready to do it and thought it’d be a great way to learn. But I wasn’t as excited as I was halfway through when I saw my rank rose from 965 to 57 in one day. Then I started to really enjoy the simulation. Every day I’d wake up, and the first thing I’d do is check and see how I was doing. Near the end, it would be multiple times a day I’d log in to see if anything happened.

Did you talk to your family about what you learned throughout the simulation?

I remember at the beginning when I did the vendor selection I didn’t know what a deductible was, and I had to ask my dad about that.

How did you and your classmates encourage each other to participate?

Two of my best friends, who also won scholarships, all three of us talked all the time about the Budget Challenge and tried to make a strategy together. We did things like that throughout the entire simulation.

Did you enjoy participating in the H&R Block Budget Challenge?

Yes! The H&R Block Budget Challenge taught me a lot, like how to use credit cards properly, what a 401K was, and how to write a check.

Do you think the H&R Block Budget Challenge has helped you become real-world ready?

Yes, I do. I feel like this has improved my real-world skills so much. I feel like this has taken years of hardship of me. I’ve learned so much about finances through the simulation. I loved it.

Where will you be continuing your education after high school graduation?

For my first two years I’m going to go to St. Clair Community College, then I’m going to transfer to probably Western Michigan University, and that’s when I’ll use my $20,000 scholarship.

Is it cool to be financially savvy as a teen?

I think yes, especially in St. Clair, because the winners have been congratulated by everyone. Now everyone wants to take the H&R Block Budget Challenge and win $20,000 too.

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 your teachers to register here for the next H&R Block Budget Challenge simulation.