What is a bright future?

Local high schoolers competed for college scholarships in TruMark Financial Jeopardy

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Daily double: TruMark Financial hosted its 11th year of Financial Jeopardy, a creative spin on the game show that tests local student’s knowledge of personal finance. By the final round, the initial 11 competitors had dwindled down to the final three: Ryan Mace of Neshaminy, Audra Polsky of Plymouth Whitemarsh and Vrund Patel of Bensalem. Source: Randi Marmer

Tensions were at an all-time high as the Final Jeopardy clue was revealed — “a law that grants you the right to know what is in your credit file.” As the classic, annoyingly catchy “Think Music” played on, the three contestants frantically scribbled down what they could only hope were correct answers. All were neck and neck, but it was Bensalem’s Vrund Patel who came out victorious with the answer, “What is the Fair Credit Reporting Act?”

If you’re wondering why you didn’t see Patel’s victory at 7 p.m. on 6ABC, that’s because this wasn’t a televised show of Jeopardy!. This was TruMark Financial Jeopardy, which took place on Wednesday, May 9, at the company’s headquarters, 335 Commerce Drive in Fort Washington.

Currently in its 11th year, this creative spin on the classic game show pits local high schoolers against each other, testing their knowledge in all aspects of personal finance for the coveted prize of a college scholarship. This year’s competition welcomed teens from 11 schools — Abington, Bensalem, George Washington, Neshaminy, Norristown, Northeast, Plymouth Whitemarsh, Upper Dublin, Radnor, Roman Catholic and William Tennent.

Several weeks prior to the contest, TruMark distributed qualifying exams to each of the schools. All questions on the test were related to personal finance topics including checking, banking and money management.

Once the top-scoring student from each school was determined, they were given a textbook on managing personal finance. For anyone who wanted to excel in the competition, this book was the holy grail of information since all Jeopardy questions would come from it. Bensalem High School senior Patel reflected on how he studied more than 400 terms to help him prepare, but he didn’t mind one bit.

“All of the knowledge was useful,” he said of learning about checking accounts and other real-life situations.

Patel was joined by fellow Bucks County high schoolers Ryan Mace of Neshaminy and Nicholas Seliga of William Tennent.

The lineup: This year’s competition welcomed teens from 11 schools. Soruce: Randi Marmer

As the students walked into TruMark’s headquarters for the big night, they hoped their efforts would pay off. The evening kicked off at 5:15 p.m. with opening remarks from Richard F. Stipa, chief executive officer, and Randi Marmer, assistant vice president public relations, followed by a dinner. At 6 p.m., it was time to play Financial Jeopardy.

The game was broken into three elimination rounds with three categories in each. Organized very much like Jeopardy!, students buzzed in when they wished to answer a question, gaining and losing points depending on if they were correct. At the end of each round, the students with the highest scores advanced.

By the final round, the initial 11 competitors had dwindled down to the final three — Patel, Mace and Audra Polsky of Plymouth Whitemarsh — and the score was nail bitingly close.

“I was on the edge of my seat,” Marmer reflected.

Though Mace took a risk wagering 7,600 of his 7,800 points, it was Patel who earned first place with a whopping 16,000 points. As the winner, Patel was awarded a $5,000 scholarship, which he’ll put toward his computer science degree at Drexel University this fall. Polsky won a $3,000 scholarship as the second place finisher, and Mace went home with a $2,000 scholarship for coming in third.

All 11 participants were awarded a $200 savings account with TruMark.

“It’s quite an accomplishment to make it to that point,” Marmer said of qualifying for Financial Jeopardy.

Though the students were competing for a prize, Marmer’s hope is that they’re able to take away from the experience valuable, real-world information many young adults are naive to. As part of TruMarks’s “Building Financial Futures” initiative, the goal of Financial Jeopardy is to help teens gain knowledge in the areas of banking, credit, taxes, budgeting and investments.

The initiative also includes financial literacy reality fairs at local high schools, presentations, and student-run branches at Bensalem High School, Bucks County Community College, William Tennent High School and several others.

To learn more about TruMark Financial, visit trumarkonline.org, facebook.com/trumarkonline, or twitter.com/trumarkonline or call 1–877-TRUMARK. ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com