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Students put financial literacy to the test in MoneySKILL Mania

More than 80 teens tested their financial know-how in a competitive game Wednesday in the University at Buffalo's Center for the Arts.

The fourth annual MoneySKILL Mania, sponsored by the UB School of Management and M&T Bank, seeks to improve financial literacy in youth. Students from 18 high schools competed individually and as teams through several rounds of questions.

Web development major Ed Shi of Harkness Career & Technical Center took home the grand prize, an Apple iPad. Members of the winning team, Springville-Griffith Institute, each won $250 toward their college educations.

Shi, who is considering changing his major to business, was surprised to win after a modest estimate of his performance. "I thought I did OK. I got some wrong, so I was definitely surprised."

Shi said he plans to give his iPad to his younger cousin in Asia, whose father recently asked if his parents could buy and ship one.

Susie Irvine, president and CEO of the American Financial Services Association Education Foundation, said Wednesday's event is the main one of its type used to promote MoneySKILL, an Internet-based financial literacy program offered free to high school students that her organization developed with a UB professor.

Irvine said the event is personally important to her.

"Financial literacy has been my passion for years," said Irvine. She conducts training nationwide with teachers interested in offering MoneySKILL. Her organization is currently developing a middle-school version she expects to test out soon.

Local interest in the program is swelling, said Cynthia Shore, the UB School of Management's assistant dean for external relations. She believes the lessons of the recession have resonated with the public and put the spotlight on financial literacy, which she calls "one of the most critical issues facing our country."

The organization received an unprecedented volume of phone calls from interested parents, and it had a waiting list for teachers during its most recent year. The program began with 16 teachers four years ago and now has 170 at 75 area schools.

The program is offered free and fulfills all state requirements for financial education. M&T Bank, which co-sponsored Wednesday's quiz, provides $25,000 to the program annually.

e-mail: vsherry@buffnews.com

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