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Members of the Mascoma Valley Regional High School team, from left, are Alex Brueckner, Caleb Caraway, captain Keegan Caraway, Garrett Albano. (Courtesy Jonathan Phillips)

Mascoma Valley high team proves its fiscal smarts in national competition

CANAAN — A Mascoma Valley Regional High School team brought home a national title this week after demonstrating outstanding financial literacy and consumer skills at the 2014 National LifeSmarts Championship in Orlando, Fla.

Teammates Keegan Caraway, Caleb Caraway, Alex Brueckner and Garrett Albano comfortably beat second-place Milton (Mass.) High School with a score of 228 to 146 in the quiz competition.

Led by team captain Keegan Caraway, a senior headed for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., the team bested state champions from Georgia, Virginia, Missouri, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island before taking on the Milton team for a definitive win.

“We’d been to the state’s before,” said the captain, so the format wasn’t a surprise. Part of the preparation was studying previous years’ questions.

“New to us were videos on YouTube from ConsumerMan,” he said.

That’s NBC’s Herb Weisbaum, a consumer expert, if you were wondering.

Shawn Joyce, who teaches business classes at Mascoma Valley RHS, said the LifeSmarts competition and the preparation for it “reinforces what’s done in class.”

LifeSmarts is a program run by the Washington, D.C.-based National Consumers League, the nation’s oldest consumer advocacy organization. Joyce said there has been a national program for 20 years, but LifeSmarts has only been in New Hampshire for 11 years.

He said the program was started by a banker who was appalled at the lack of consumer literacy in adults. He decided to find a way to engage and educate young people so they would be financially literate as they approached adulthood.

Sally Greenberg, the NCL executive director, said: “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.”

Joyce said, “This really allows the kids to do this on their own. It’s fun and a good way to build better consumer education.”

It’s one thing to memorize information, but this program enables youngsters to see the application, he said.

This is the second year on the team for Caleb Caraway, a junior at Mascoma Valley RHS. He said, “I got interested mainly because of Keegan.” But he also enjoys the competition. “I do soccer and I run track,” he said.

The school recognized the accomplishments of the team on their return, and Caleb said he would like to close out his senior year with a repeat LifeSmarts team win next year.

Joyce said there will be openings on the team next year because Alex Brueckner is also a senior. He said there are five slots on the LifeSmarts team, but one member of this year’s team had too much going on to go the four-day competition.

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