WCCHS’ LifeSmarts Team places eighth in nation


Photo by Angie Jacobo

LifeSmarts competitors work as a team during the National Championship in Washington, D.C.

By Leslie Fireman, Chronicle Advisor

The LifeSmarts Team represented West Chicago Community High School and the state of Illinois at the 2022 National LifeSmarts Competition in Washington D.C. over April 21-24, finishing in eighth place.

Considered the “ultimate consumer challenge“, LifeSmarts is a program that provides students in grades 6-12 with opportunities to learn more about being smart consumers in the real world. The organization focuses on five areas of expertise:

According to the National Consumers League, which oversees LifeSmarts, “Students take individual assessments, complete team problem-solving activities such as “Speed Dating the Experts,” and compete in four quiz bowl matches. Throughout competition students gain points for correctly answering questions about cybersecurity, credit reports, recycling, nutrition, consumer fraud, and much more.”

The team, headed by captain and senior Sean Slattery, also included sophomores Christina Guo, Angie Jacobo, Arely Jacobo, and Dana Tomasevic.

The team was victorious early in the competition, defeating Minnesota 120 -100.

“This was a very exciting match, with our team trailing Minnesota 90 to 60 halfway through the completion.  They had a very nice rally at the end to win,” said Don Zabelin, coach of WEGO’s LifeSmarts Team.

The team won their next match 140 – 80 over Florida, followed by a triumph over Missouri, 120 – 115 in the third round.

“Missouri was a very tough team, and our players built a 100 – 45 lead which enabled them to hang on for the very narrow victory,” said Zabelin.

WCCHS’ team fell to Wisconsin in the fourth round, finishing the event with a score of 130-105.

The team traveled to Washington D.C. for the event in late April. (Photo by Don Zabelin)

In addition to taking eighth place overall in the national competition, several students from West Chicago Community High School won individual awards. Slattery took first place and a $100 prize for his infographic on avoiding the purchase of counterfeit goods.

Angie Jacobo also placed first for her report on being a Safety Ambassador. She also received a $1000 college scholarship.

As a means of earning travel stipends and educating impressionistic youth about treating medications with caution, Jacobo and the rest of the LifeSmarts team presented to fifth graders at Courier Elementary School in West Chicago about over-the-counter medicine precautions at the beginning of March.

“I think it was vital for us to teach younger audiences because we need to know what we put in our bodies, and how to handle medication. Younger children, especially, are vulnerable to harm because they don’t pay attention to these things, which is why awareness is key,” said Angie Jacobo.

The sophomore competitor had a “feeling” she might be named the scholarship winner because of a key moment that emerged during the team’s presentation at Courier.

“Thanks to our diverse community, I was able to convey something that stuck out to the judges. In my short essay, I referred to something a teacher said when speaking to her class full of Spanish-speaking students after being asked, ‘Why is it important that we know about the drug fact label?’ After a couple answers from students, she said something along the lines of ‘So that you can translate it to your parents.’ With a quote like that, it was so clear to me why it’s important to inform our community. Ultimately, I felt thankful for this community because of the insightful experiences it has offered me,” said Angie Jacobo.

Tomasevic also placed well in the national competition, returning with a fifth-place ranking in the Personal Finance assessment, which asks competitors to answer a series of questions ranging in topics from student loans to retirement.

“Honestly, I was surprised I got fifth. There [were] a lot of good teams and students at the competition. More importantly, I was grateful for the support of my teammates and coach for helping me with studying throughout the year,” said Tomasevic, who prepared for the competition using Kahoot and Quizlet study links available through the LifeSmarts website, as well as crash course videos recommended by a business teacher at WEGO.

Following their strong finish at the national competition, the team now looks to next year. Tomasevic encourages interested students to consider joining the team next year.

“LifeSmarts exposed me to a lot of information that I believe everyone should know. LifeSmarts is very beginner friendly, and helps students grow. I joined it with my friends freshman year because we were curious to see what the club was about. We learned quickly that it seemed a bit difficult at first, but later, as we kept going to each practice, we could tell our work was paying off and we got better. So, you can start off knowing very little, but if you put the time in you can grow to become very good at LifeSmarts,” said Tomasevic.