By Theresa D. McClellan
For the Fort Bend Star
With two brothers already at the University of Houston, Clements High School senior Angela Lin really didn’t know how her family could help her get into college.
Last year she participated in the H&R Block Budget Challenge, a 10-week financial literacy competition that her teacher was exploring.
“It was a fun idea to learn about personal management and I liked the concept of simulation and making choices. But I didn’t believe I was capable of winning anything. I did the bare minimum,” she recalled.
Then she started thinking about college and told herself, “if I get a chance next year…”
The chance came and Angela was ready. She signed up again for the challenge but this time she committed to doing the research and knowing herself.
She developed spreadsheets, made choices on insurance deductibles, planned how to spend paychecks and how to pay bills. She won $20,000 in the competition along with four classmates.
She was stunned to learn she’d also won the $100,000 grand prize out of 150,000 students across the nation.
Lin was standing on stage as they announced the $20,000 winners. Then they produced her $120,000 check.
“I burst into tears. I fell to the stage ground. I can’t believe it. To be honest, I’m still in shock,” she said.
Her father lives in Taiwan and sends home money to support the family.
“I don’t have to worry so much about how to pay for college. Now I can get unpaid internships that will help me instead of passing up opportunities because I need a job,” said the Sugar Land native.
Her mother, Amy Dai, a teacher, was present when Angela received the grand prize.
“She was so cute; she was like a giddy little child. Like someone who got their first piece of ice cream,” recalled her daughter. She spoke to her father on the phone. “My father said ‘I knew it, I knew it. You are a hard working young woman and I know good things would come to you,’” Lin said.
She sees the scholarship as a blessing for her parents.
“My parents worked so hard and it’s a huge burden. I can help my brothers too,” she said.
Her oldest brother is studying entrepreneurship and marketing and her second brother has a double degree in mechanical engineering and supply chain management.
Angela wants a double major in management systems and marketing with maybe a minor in entrepreneurship, she said. She has unlimited dreams.
“I want to do something with international business making the connection to different countries. Since I’m ethnically Taiwanese I’m wondering if I want to do something that helps Taiwan and American products. I want to start my own scholarship fund and can start giving back to the community.
“There are not a lot of females in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) especially those who are not able to afford college, those who are financially less fortunate. I want to help them achieve their dreams,” Lin said. For the H&R Block Budget Challenge, there are six simulations (three per semester) where students across the nation participate in the online simulation where they live the financial life of an adult right out of college. They must decide on a living situation, a cell phone plan, and insurance plans. At the same time, they must also contribute to a 401(k) and develop a credit score. All the while they are being quizzed weekly on financial literacy topics, like credit cards, paycheck stubs and investing options.
At the end of the six simulation periods, the scoring for the overall grand prize scholarship winner is determined through a unique formula of behavior, knowledge and skill that show cases the student who is truly ready to embark on a fiscally responsible future.
Angela will use her new skills to budget her college expenses and pursue other financial dreams. Texas is one of only seven states that require high school students to be tested on personal finance concepts before graduation.
The H&R Block Budget Challenge offers high school educators free online curriculum that replicates an adult’s financial life.
“Too many teens graduate each year without personal finance skills or the confidence to succeed on their own,” said Kathy Collins, H&R Block chief marketing officer. “The H&R Block Budget Challenge helps address a critical need in thousands of high schools each year. Hearing what this program means to teachers and students is so rewarding and reinforces how important this program is,” Collins said. In addition to providing free curriculum, H&R Block has awarded more than $6 million in scholarships and grants nationwide through its Budget Challenge.
Lin’s classmates, Jonathan Chang, Ashvin Nihalani and Christopher Winters were among the 132 students who earned $20,000 scholarships this year, and their business education teacher, Gregory Eppes, was among the 60 teachers awarded a $2,500 classroom grant.
A new season of the H&R Block Budget Challenge will launch in September. More details will be available at www.hrbds.org.