Competition was intense Wednesday as high school and middle school students from across the state participated in the Kansas Personal Finance Challenge at Wichita State University.
It was the second year for the high school competition and the first for middle schools, said Jim Graham, president of the Kansas Council on Economic Education, which organized the event.
The group's mission is to make sure that Kansas youth are literate in personal finance and economics. It works with teachers and schools by providing resources, training and student programs.
The event at the Rhatigan Student Center involved three rounds. Students advanced to the next round based on their ability to answer questions about spending and credit, saving and investing, income and money management.
The keynote speaker for the event was state treasurer Dennis McKinney. He encouraged students to save and invest their money.
"I grew up in a rural area in Kansas," McKinney said. "I grew up around people who didn't appear to have much in their life. But as they became older, they were comfortable. They had money. They were never frivolous. They were careful in borrowing and spending."
After a daylong competition, the finalists in the middle school challenge came down to two teams: Iola Middle School and Trailridge Middle School from Shawnee Mission.
Buzzers rang as Graham announced the first question to determine the state winner:
"The largest and oldest stock market in the United States is what?"
Zach St. Clair, the spokesman for Iola Middle School, buzzed and answered.
"The New York Stock Exchange."
The next question was a little tougher.
"A 529 Plan is a tax advantage savings plan designed to encourage savings for what type of cost?"
Zach and his team loudly whispered back and forth. Finally, as the seconds ticked by, he answered.
"That is correct," Graham said.
The middle school students answered more than 20 questions before Iola was declared the winner.
Nickerson won the division for high school students, defeating Blue Valley North. Nickerson will represent Kansas at the National Personal Finance Challenge in Kansas City, Mo., next month.
McKinney told the students the lessons they learned now would benefit not only them but others.
"What you do is important not only for you and your family but the state of Kansas,'' he said. "We need your help to build a stronger state."