My Experience with LifeSmarts

I have never really thought of myself as smart at life. But last semester, Steve Kautz sat our Business and Finance class down for a discussion about LifeSmarts, a national competition for high school students that focuses on consumer education. Waynflete had entered the competition for the first time the previous year and won, so we were the defending State Champions.  Steve signed us all up for accounts and told us to take these five online quizzes to qualify for the competition, covering the categories of Consumer Rights, Health and Safety, Technology, Personal Finance and the Environment. I thought to myself, “This sounds like the perfect competition for me.”

And then I forgot all about it.  Instead, I immersed myself in other success stories at Waynflete, from the Soccer, Basketball, Science, and Math teams to the recent success of the Upper School Jazz Combo. Then one day, out of the blue, my friend Mason Saltz called me up and told me, “You are doing a quiz.” I thought to myself, What on earth is he talking about? I asked him to clarify, and he said that I should complete the five online LifeSmarts quizzes by the due date, which happened to be the next day. I figured that I had nothing to lose, so I went ahead and completed them.  Sample quiz questions are linked here.

Little did I know that I was actually skilled in these categories. Steve Kautz, now my Personal Finance teacher, came up to me the next day and told me that I had qualified for the LifeSmarts team representing Waynflete. I was shocked and a little nervous. “This will be fun, right?” he said reassuringly.  We got together our qualifying team, and based on the people in our group, I instantly knew we had a good chance at winning. Each member of our group was skilled in at least one of the five categories, if not more. After devouring study guide after study guide and practicing quiz after practice quiz, our work finally culminated in the Maine LifeSmarts competition at the Unum campus in South Portland.

IMG_4401At the event, we were introduced to the sponsors, question masters, judges, referees, and our competitors from high schools across the state. The woman who ran the competition told the group that we would first be competing in a Mock Round. My nerves instantly set in. I am not the kind of person who enjoys public speaking, never mind having the spotlight on me to answer questions. And just my luck. Waynflete was called up first, and I had the brains to pick the first seat by accident. They explained that we would be competing in a buzzer round, where the first person to buzz in gets to answer. She started reading. “What three digit number do you call for emergencies?” I thought to myself, “If this is what the competition is like, then I am in for the easiest day of my life.”

Unfortunately, the questions grew harder and the competition became fiercer as the day went on.  We finally made it to the last round, where the members of each team could buzz in and answer. Waynflete and Woodland High School pulled away from the pack.  We were neck and neck headed down the stretch. Waynflete had to answer the final question correctly to tie, which we did.  The two teams entered a tie breaking round, an all expenses paid trip to Disney on the line. The questions started ticking by, one that they got right, one that we got right, until finally only one question remained.

It was now or never. The question master, Bill Green from “Bill Green’s Maine”, opened his lips. “Created in the 1970 by the federal government, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation is better known by what name?” he read. Five seconds were on the clock. Nobody answered on either side. Then at the last second, Cody buzzed in. “Amtrak?”. “Correct!”

We all looked at each other in awe. Coach Kautz looked as though he was going to faint.  We were rushed by our adoring fans (Well, we were rushed by our alternate, who had practiced with the team and watched the competition patiently).  We had done it, our team had made it to Nationals.  Waynflete had repeated as State LifeSmart Champion. On to Disney.


Left to Right, Top Row: Mason Saltz, Chloe Williams, Sally Li, Codte Tiparos, Sam Frederick. Bottom Row: Steve Kautz and Pam Green

LifeSmarts, the Ultimate Consumer Challenge, is an online competition available to high school students across the country. After completing the online section of the event, the top schools are invited to the state competition, a live head-to-head event. LifeSmarts tests knowledge in five core categories: Personal Finance, Consumer Rights and Responsibilities, Technology, Health and Safety, and the Environment. Visit their website to learn more,




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