Meet the Student Winners of the National Financial Literacy Bee

Three exceptional students were awarded a total of $20,000 in college scholarships for their winning capstone essays

During April’s Financial Literacy Month, EVERFI partnered with 27 financial institutions to launch the first-annual National Financial Literacy Bee, a digital learning challenge that enabled high school students to learn about important financial literacy concepts ranging from budgeting and saving to employment and income, investing, and insurance. The challenge drew nearly 40,000 student participants!

Students competed to win a total of $20,000 in college scholarships by completing a capstone entry in which they shared their financial dreams and how they planned to get there leveraging the lessons they learned from the challenge. 

The first-place essay contest winner was William Bird, 16 years old from Hollis Brookline High School in Hollis, NH who received $10,000 in scholarship funds, followed by second and third place winners Karisse Chisholm, 15 years old from Abraham Lincoln High School in San Jose, CA, and Morgan D. Stanley, 16 years old from Greenwood High School in Greenwood, MS, each winning $6,000 and $4,000 in college scholarship funds respectively. 

Read more of their inspiring, stand-out entries below, and join us on congratulating these extraordinary students and writers!

1st Place: William Bird, 16 years old

Hometown: Hollis, NH

Dotted lines. Careful measurements. Precise folds. My pencil flies across the sketchbook. As minutes become hours, the initially crude lines form a well-constructed, stylish jacket. 

My biggest financial dream is to build, though laborious hours and long nights, my own successful clothing brand. Successful is a powerful and necessary word in that sentence because anyone can throw their hat in the ring and call it a business, but it takes creativity, knowledge, and hard work to succeed. “To achieve what 1% of the world’s population has, you must be willing to do what only 1% dare to do…hard work and perseverance of highest order.” – Manoj Arora.

Hard work without knowledge is nothing. While I had a basic financial understanding for setting up a savings account, EVERFI’s financial education course assisted in bridging the gaps in my understanding of saving and investing for short, medium and long term plans. Correlations between risk and reward and various forms of currency were clarified. Money management is critical to my business’ future success and I am now confident to make initial monetary investments and proceed with actualizing plans for launching my brand. 

I learned I must create a budget for my small business. I need to have a clear outline of needed capital: $149 – heat press, $279 – serger, $428 – screen print swivel table. These are some of the initial “needs”. Advertising and online marketing are important, though, initially, these are “wants”. My budget will include continued production, order fulfillment, and raw material replenishment. Next, I’ll open a company credit card and use it for set up costs. Currently, I’m an assistant in a sewing class (a part-time job) and have a pet sitting business and hire out for yard maintenance (gig work). Since I have both earning potential and a growing savings account at Digital Credit Union I can pay off my monthly bill to prove credit-worthiness. Small business loans for business expansion and to generate real profit will then be more attainable. I now understand the risk and rewards of investing profits for medium and long-term goals; I imagine expanding my brand and opening a flagship store.

I have significant short term goals, too. While creative, I am an academic and plan to pursue an advanced degree. I’ve had the advantage of seeing many campuses, since my brother will start college in the fall; visiting has been eye-opening, as the opportunities are vast. Unfortunately, so is the financial investment, so my short-range goal is to finance as much of my education as possible to limit loan burdens when I graduate. I’ve researched universities that support student entrepreneurs. Some even make initial investments in small businesses! At college, I’ll develop business acumen and hone my ideas for future success. I’m excited to reap the rewards of my hard work.

I hold the hand-sketched pattern. The motor whirs to life; thread punches through supple fabric. Cut shoulders, front facing pockets and a low collar. Everybody’s dream is different. This dream is mine.

2nd Place: Karisse Chisholm, 15 years old 

Hometown: San Jose, CA

As a high school sophomore, I see my future beginning to sneak up on me. Closer and closer every day, it taps me on the shoulder whispering, “Well? What comes next?”. Being descended from Mexican migrant workers, I do not come from a line of college education. However I have aspirations for my life that I plan to fulfil, and a university degree is at the top of this list. While I may not come from an affluent family, I am a hardworking American citizen with strong values, and I believe that these are all the tools I need in order to achieve the life I see for myself – the life that my grandparents sought when they came to this country. 

It has been instilled in me throughout my life that a postsecondary education is vital to nearly all career paths. As I plan to study business, I know this to be true. This is why my biggest financial goal is to be able to afford a university education without imposing financial hardship on my parents. While I have other financial goals for my future, such as buying a home, purchasing a high-quality violin, and providing financial stability to my parents as they grow old, a college education is at the forefront of my priorities as it will allow me to excel in my career and be able to earn enough money to reach these goals. 

This CommonWealth financial course has taught me to put at least 20% of my earnings into my savings account, so as to have an increasing amount of money put away for the future. Right now, I earn my money through pet-sitting, babysitting, and summer jobs. My strategy is to benefit from the fact that I am still a teenager and my parents currently cover my needs. This allows me to allot a majority of my money to my savings. I plan to store the money I make in a CD since I shouldn’t have to use the money for a couple years. This way, when I graduate high school and  become more financially independent, I will have a substantial amount of money saved up from these past couple years. This will be money for me to put towards any of the many expenses that come with college such as room and board, textbooks, and tuition. 

However, I know that saving money from smaller jobs will not be nearly enough to pay for college. So the next component of my plan is to apply for as many scholarships as possible. These are something that I can work towards immediately in order to start preparing to afford college. Earning scholarships would be a great way to significantly reduce my expenses particularly without finding myself in debt, which brings me to the final element of my plan. The CommonWealth course provided information about loans. If necessary, I can take out a student loan from the bank. This will depend on how much money I can save in the next two years and how many scholarships I can earn. Ideally, I would not take a loan because, as the course explained, loans not only must be repaid, but they accumulate interest as time passes. So a loan would temporarily solve my financial stress, but it would also create one for the future. Nonetheless, it’s a step that I can take in order to reach my dream.

When I apply for universities, I won’t be able to say that I am a legacy student to any of them, as I don’t come from a legacy of college education. But I intend to start one. And I am willing to work towards achieving this financial feat by any means necessary in order to realize the future I see for myself.     

3rd Place: Morgan Stanley, 16 years old 

Hometown: Greenwood, MS

My biggest financial dream is to be able to create a youth orchestra designed to provide instruments to talented individuals who cannot afford an instrument of their own. I understand what it means to want to learn how to play an instrument but isn’t given a chance. For a long time, I wanted to play and learn the saxophone in a beginner band but could not afford one. This caused problems in the band for me in the future. I struggled learning other instruments such as baritone and percussion instruments because I always knew it wasn’t for me. That all changed when I got my tenor sax. I was a natural. I could instantly play the horn like I was gifted to. That’s why having a youth orchestra is my biggest financial dream. I want to create a place where underprivileged youth can explore their talents without being able to afford an instrument getting in their way. In order to achieve my dream I have to be financially stable first.  

The Literacy Bee gave a lot of helpful resources to being financially stable. One that I would definitely use is the 50/30/20 rule. Anytime I have money, it flies quickly. That’s because I don’t budget like I should. The 50/30/20 rule taught me I have to divide my money like I need to. When I achieve my dream, the extra money I have saved up will come in handy when it comes to buying instruments for underprivileged youth. 

Another Bonus that I learnt is having a good credit score. Your credit score determines how much extra you have to work to be able to live comfortably. Without a good credit score, you can’t get approved for loans, cars, houses, etc. Without a decent credit score, it is even hard to create a business/organization. So, I learned that I have to keep my credit score high so that I can afford to open my orchestra and help improve the lives of the unfortunate children. 

The steps I plan to take are simple. I plan to budget and save my money. Like B.B. King said, “the Eagle flies on Friday”, but today I’m chopping the wings off, so the eagle stays in my wallet. In the future, I’m also not going to be quick to buy things that might bring my credit score down. I’m also going to take the steps to open a savings account for my future orchestra to ensure that my dreams come true. 

In conclusion, I learned how to manage my money properly. I have learned skills that will increase my management of my money as I venture through adulthood. I will apply these teachings to ensure that I am able to give any child the ability to explore their talent through music education and music expression. I know I can achieve my dreams with these lessons.