Mascoma Squad Proves Their LifeSmarts

Tuesday, May 06, 2014
For more than a decade, Mascoma Valley Regional High School has fielded a team to compete in the yearly LifeSmarts competition, a national financial literacy contest for high school students. The four members of this year’s squad returned from Orlando, Fla., last week bearing the championship trophy. It was the first win for a team representing New Hampshire in the state’s 11-year involvement in the contest.

“Our goal was to finish in the top 10 in the country,” said Keegan Caraway, team captain. Instead, Caraway, 18, his brother Caleb Caraway, 16, Garrett Albano, 16, and Alex Brueckner, 17, defeated a team from Massachusetts in the final round to win the quiz-bowl style tournament.

The winning team has given Mascoma a measure of school pride resembling a caffeinated buzz. Students watched a live stream of the final rounds, and last Thursday morning the halls were full of signs congratulating the victors. (The final rounds are available for viewing online at

The contest is based on a set of humble skills and knowledge once considered bedrock subjects for American students. With the growing emphasis on core academic subjects, there isn’t much room for financial literacy instruction amid the differential equations, irregular verbs and paratactic sentence structures that generally occupy the minds of high school students. LifeSmarts helps fill that gap, Keegan Caraway said.

Created by the National Consumers League 20 years ago, LifeSmarts quizzes high school students in five subject areas: personal finance, technology, environment, consumer rights and health and safety. The students who participate in LifeSmarts are arming themselves for life in a world that doesn’t always provide enough information to make good decisions about money.

“The more you know as a young adult, the better off you’re going to be,” said Shawn Joyce, a business teacher at Mascoma for 27 years and the coach of the school’s LifeSmarts team. Members generally come from his Introduction to Business/Economics class, which covers basic financial literacy.

The LifeSmarts questions the Mascoma students faced included questions about cyber security, carbon monoxide poisoning, filing tax forms electronically and other nuts and bolts knowledge of the world. In the final round, the Mascoma team sprinted out to a lead of 105 to nothing, a gap the team from Milton (Mass.) High School couldn’t close.

This year, only 18 high schools in New Hampshire participated in the LifeSmarts contest. As winners of the state finals, the Mascoma team’s entire cost to travel to Orlando was covered by the New Hampshire Jump$tart Coalition, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the financial literacy of New Hampshire students.

“I really think a lot of schools should look into it,” Joyce said. “There’s a lot of information that’s going to be really beneficial for them.”

Mascoma has participated since 2004, and has made it to the state finals, a contest among the top six teams, every year. The school represented New Hampshire once before, in 2006, and finished fourth in the country.

Business education cuts across all fields of endeavor, Joyce said. As students consider college loans, their first car purchases, their first apartment rentals, their first phone bills, the skills the LifeSmarts program drills into them at weekly practices come in handy.

“We’re all going to be consumers,” he added.

∎ Also at Mascoma, the school will hold a “hands-on” week from May 12-16, featuring all kinds of collaborative projects involving students, teachers and the community. The week concludes with the school’s 10th annual Student Showcase Festival on May 17.

This year’s festival includes musical performances, a chicken barbecue for Project Graduation and a mock emergency drill that will incorporate wounds painted on students by an anatomy class.

Student Honors

Five Vermont Law School students have been named 2014-15 Albert Schweitzer Fellows for projects related to health and social welfare in local communities. The fellows and their projects are:

Alicia Artessa: To provide support, guidance and friendship to children with special needs and their families, while at the same time increasing community understanding of the issues facing this population.

Rachael Delehanty: To develop and expand the Vermont Law School Buddies mentoring program, which matches students at South Royalton School with buddies at Vermont Law. Community site: One Planet Afterschool Program at South Royalton School.

Noura Eltabbakh: To provide advocacy and support to survivors of sexual assault who are seeking legal protection, in partnership with the Vermont Superior Court. Community site: HOPE Works, Burlington.

Barbara Fernandez: To provide legal and social support services for victims of domestic violence and their children. Community site: Have Justice-Will Travel.

Melissa Shapiro: To address hunger and food insecurity in South Royalton. Her project aims to raise community awareness of hunger and nutrition issues; advocate on a state level for assistance; educate vulnerable populations on the importance of good nutrition; and help families locate the resources that will provide more secure access to nutritious food. Community Site: Hunger Free Vermont, Burlington.

Teacher Honors

Peter Tse, a professor in the department of psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth College, is among this year’s Guggenheim Fellowship recipients. His research concentrates on “the cognitive and neural bases of visual perception, attention and consciousness,” according to Tse’s Dartmouth website.

∎ Congratulations to David Auerbach, a science teacher at Cardigan Mountain School in Canaan, who has been received a handful of prestigious awards in the past school year.

Last month, Auerbach was named the 2014 S.T.E.M. Excellence in Teaching Award Winner for middle school grades by the New Hampshire Society of Professional Engineers and the Vernier Software and Technology Award, middle school level, by the National Science Teachers Association.

Last year, Auerbach was one of only 50 educators in the U.S. chosen for the Siemens STEM Institute, a fellowship designed to promote hands-on, real-world integration of STEM disciplines in the classroom. Auerbach has earned other awards in the past during his career at Cardigan Mountain, where he has taught since 1996.

∎ Marc Chabot, a teacher at Thetford Academy, is one of just 40 middle and high school teachers across the country chosen to participate in the prestigious Siemens Teachers as Researchers (STARs) fellowship program.

This annual summer event will take place at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, the U.S. Department of Energy’s largest, multipurpose, national research laboratory and is designed to empower teachers to bring the excitement of real-world research into their classrooms and inspire students to pursue science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.

Events and Performances

Upper Valley Farm to School will present its first ever Champion Award at the sixth annual Trek to Taste event on June 7 at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park in Woodstock. The award will be given to an individual, school or organization that has demonstrated inspiration, creativity and effectiveness in connecting local food and farms with their school cafeteria, classroom and community in the Upper Valley.

Nominations for the award can be made by submitting a letter to by May 15. Be sure to provide the name of the nominee, the school or organization they are affiliated with and a short description of how the nominee has demonstrated the desired qualities in their farm to school efforts.

∎ Maybe it’s something about the Upper Valley, but there seems to be a habit of creating a new twist on The Wizard of Oz. A decade or so ago, Matt Bucy sliced up every word of the legendary film into single bits, then rearranged them alphabetically into Of Oz the Wizard, a trippy, or trippier, version shorn of narrative and plot.

Now it’s the Hanover High School Footlighters who are taking a crack at The Wizard of Oz, which turns 75 this year. Director Alan Haehnel decided to set the show on a playground. The characters are 10-year-old children who divvy up the roles for a game of Wizard of Oz.

Performances are scheduled for May 8-10 in the Hanover High School auditorium. Tickets can be reserved by emailing

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