Hand Student Wins Scholarship

Hand Student Ameen Parks Wins Next Gen Personal Finance Scholarship

Daniel Hand High School Senior Ameen Parks was recently honored as one of two students in the state to win this year’s Next Gen Personal Finance (NGPF) scholarship through their third annual prestigious PAYBACK Challenge. NGFP is a non-profit that provided resources and curriculum to schools for personal finance instruction.

Over 900 students across the country participated in the contest by first playing the college finance game, PAYBACK, and then writing a 250 essay. Business teacher David Tommaso had all of his students in his personal finance class play the game. He said the game simulates a four-year post-secondary option and forces student to balance their hypothetical priorities and budgets.

“It will pose questions like, ‘Spring break is coming. Do you want to go away or do you want to stay?’” he said. “If they choose go away it adds on to the amount of debt the student has. Students also choose a major halfway through the game and it basically looks at how much student loan debt did you graduate with, what kind of starting salary did you end up with and then it lays it out with how much your monthly payment would be and how long it would take to pay off.”

Mr. Tommaso said he selected Ameen’s essay to submit for the contest because he really understood that in many ways, student loans are a game. If you don’t have a strategy going into them, your odds of winning are slim.

Ameen said he was surprised to win and said while the scholarship money is great, he is also thankful for all he learned in this class. 

”This class was not about the grade for me,” he said. “I cared more about how this is information that is really useful to me that I need to know for the future. In the budget slot [in the game] you would add in student loans and it would be hard to put it in the budget. It would take away from things like retirement and other things that are needed. This expanded my views and showed me that it is not a good idea to take out X amount in loans. It is not something where you can say I will take out the loans now and pay it back later because this is going to be with you for a while.” 

You can read Ameen’s award-winning response here:

$108,929. That is how much debt in student loans that I have accumulated through my 4 year education at an out of state public university.  Even with a starting annual salary of $65,300, I'm practically spending a third of my monthly paycheck on student loans. This payment is before expenditures such as: taxes, rent, healthcare, car insurance, etc. I may as well live with my parents until I pay the loans off or I won't be able to live comfortably, let alone save for retirement. Fortunately for me, this was all in my virtual life. However, an overwhelming student loan debt is an extremely serious reality for countless Americans. Unless my parents wish for me to be their dependent for the next 20+ years, we must discuss the dangers of immense student debt and how to prevent it. Applying for scholarships/financial aid, getting a summer job, and becoming an RA are all fantastic examples from the game that I can use in real life to save money. The game also brought to my awareness that if I don't receive the needed financial aid, I must reconsider going out of state and paying a much more expensive tuition and travel fees.  If we don't talk about the dangers of student debt now, we will be regretting it for the next couple of decades. College is a game of loans. If you don’t approach it with a financial strategy beforehand, you are doomed to lose.