by Brandi Williams, LifeSmarts Program Assistant
As a newcomer to the National Consumers League, the 2009 LifeSmarts National Competition, held in St. Louis, Missouri from April 25 – 28, was my first opportunity to experience the energy that teens from around the country bring to the realm of consumer education. More than 300 students, coaches, families, sponsors, and volunteers from across the country converged in St. Louis for the four-day event, which was brought to an exciting conclusion when the final match between Washington state and Wisconsin was decided, and the Oconto High School team from Wisconsin emerged as the 2009 LifeSmarts National Champions . The semi-final and final matches were streamed live online by our friends at NextGenWeb! You can view the archive here.
Teens face similar challenges as their parents in making wise consumer choices. They are using the Internet to search for jobs, scholarships and information; they are opening bank accounts and depositing paychecks; they are analyzing costs and benefits to make responsible purchases of items like wireless phones, laptops, MP3 players, clothes and cars – and all the while developing the necessary skills for making financially and environmentally sound decisions. LifeSmarts teaches teens life skills and the value of consumer savvy in a variety of situations where marketplace skills and responsible decision-making are needed.
Coaches use the LifeSmarts.org site for finding relevant curricula to educate teens in the areas of health and safety, technology, personal finance, consumer rights and responsibilities, and the environment. Then, in a format that teens can relate to – a game-show – teens test their skills and knowledge through an online competition. Teams are formed, compete, and those with the highest scores then move on to an in-person state-wide competition, where the 1st place team is then invited to represent their state at the National LifeSmarts Championship.
Being at the National Competition showed me that these teens are excited about learning. The current state of our economy has shocked many teens into understanding the importance of making responsible financial decisions, making them eager to learn the skills they need and put them to use. Many people use the LifeSmarts.org site for personal education only. Participating in LifeSmarts, which is an extracurricular activity, is a personal choice for young adults who want to develop consumer and marketplace skills and carry them into adulthood. And while Oconto High School is the 2009 LifeSmarts National Champion, all LifeSmarts participants are champions in my book.