KINSTON, N.C. — Four students from Lenoir County Early College High School teamed up this past weekend to claim the state championship in the North Carolina Council on Economic Education Personal Finance Challenge and earn a spot in the national competition.

The team of sophomores Spencer Jones, Marwan Albaadani, Montana Barrett and Sydney Jeffreys won the state title in just the second year of competition by Early College in the NCCEE event, held at the Federal Reserve building in Charlotte. Each student received a $250 scholarship and the opportunity to earn more at the national event.

“Throughout the competition, students had to really dig deep and focus on grasping not only financial literacy topics, but also how to integrate them into a workable solution for a family, which can be difficult for anyone,” said Dr. Travis Towne, who teaches civic literacy and economics and personal finance at Early College and coaches the team.

 As Spencer Jones simply said, “It was fun but a little stressful.”

Students were given 48 hours to prepare a financial plan for a fictitious family scenario and required to address a variety of financial topics, including budgeting, savings and investing, debt, taxes and banking. Once students arrived in Charlotte, competition started with a financial literacy test, after which students were required to present their financial plan before a panel of judges who scored them on content knowledge, teamwork, presentation skills and various creative aspects.

A combination of those scores determined the two teams that participated in a final quiz bowl round, where they would buzz in to answer financial literacy questions and earn the state champion spot.

The national championship, to be held June 4-5 at the Federal Reserve Bank in Cleveland, Ohio, will essentially follow the same format.

All Early College team members confessed to a case of the jitters going into the competition, but expressed satisfaction that they were able to overcome their nervousness and not only win but also enjoy the competition.

 “Starting this competition, I was nervous; we first became unorganized but beat the obstacle between all the stress and nervousness,” Marwan Albaadani said. “Through this experience, I learned to be organized, to put jobs on each person and to be calm under pressure. Because of this, we learned new abilities that we will take with us to the national competition.”

Sydney Jeffreys found the competition “very nerve-wracking,” but with rewards. “Competing against students who were just as knowledgeable in finances made the experience more exciting. I hope I have as much fun at nationals.”

For Montana Barrett the nervousness “dwindled away once I started presenting and turned into confidence. Win or lose it was an amazing experience.”

Towne, who had the opportunity to watch the students in action, said he was amazed at their maturity and willingness to challenge themselves to overcome the obstacles they faced throughout the competition.

“I can’t express how proud I am of my students and thrilled to see how much their financial literacy knowledge has grown throughout the year,” he said. “These are skills that many adults haven’t learned or learned later throughout their lives. To learn these financial principles now and how to implement them in their own lives will allow these students to have access to so many opportunities in their journey. I can’t wait to see how they will utilize these financial skills moving forward.”

Since 1970, the NCCEE has been a supporter of financial education for K-12 educators and students of North Carolina and has financial sponsorships throughout the state.

Business and individuals interested in sponsoring the Early College team in its pursuit of a national title in Cleveland are asked to contact Dr. Travis Towne at Lenoir County Early College High School at