BRADENTON – Southeast High School has long been known as an area football powerhouse, but a team of accounting students that recently competed in an area-wide "Financial Football" competition produced results that even Coach Maechtle would have envied. The Seminole squad tied for first place with an ending that was one for the history books. For their victory, each student received $500 and a new desktop computer!
The Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union's Financial Football Challenge is an intense competition in which teams of students throughout the suncoast area compete in answering from a pool of 1,000 questions, with each winning team advancing to the next round. Southeast's team – Isabella Fernandez, Cameron Lock, Jennifer Caba, and Bryan Hernandez – went undefeated all the way to the finals, where after a staggering 28 rounds of overtime, the event was declared a draw between them and Sunlake High School (Pasco County).
Cindy Reese, an accounting, web design and computer technology teacher at Southeast, said that the computer actually broke down by the end of the 28th overtime, apparently unable to keep up with the intense competition. When it was declared a draw and the teams announced as co-champions, the Suncoast board generously decided to award the grand prizes to both teams' members .
Southeast competed against 13 other teams from all over southwest Florida in answering personal finance questions. Reese said that she had challenged two of her students in the Future Business Leaders of America program (Lock and Fernandez) to consider fielding a team with students they thought would be best suited for the competition. Once the students were assembled, they underwent intense practice to master the material that would be in the question pool. The students had the help of Scott Callison, Service Center Manager at one of the credit union's nearby branches, who Reese said tirelessly helped to prepare them for the big day.
Lock, a senior who also works at Publix where he hopes to eventually move into management, said that the experience gave him a much more solid understanding of the world of integrated finance that will serve as a strong foundation when he moves on to USF Sarasota-Manatee after graduation, where he plans to study accounting. In addition to the academic experience, he also said that the event was much more exciting than he'd expected it to be.
“I thought it might be kind of boring,” laughed Lock, “but when we got there everybody was really into it. It ended up being a lot of fun.”
Reese said that all of the students have expressed an interest in pursuing careers in accounting/finance fields and said that the competition and its preparations gave them a unique opportunity to gather real world-like experience in an academic setting. She explained that Southeast even has a Suncoast Schools Federal Credit Union branch on campus, run by students who get hands on experience with deposit banking, while still in high school.
While Lock, Caba and Hernandez will all move on to college next year, Fernandez is only a sophomore, though she's far from being new to intense academic competitions. The talented underclassman qualified for the Future Business Leaders of America's national competition in San Antonio last year when she was only a freshman, and while she failed to make the top 10, she'll be a strong favorite when she returns this year.
The Bradenton Times would like to congratulate the Southeast squad for their remarkable accomplishment, and salute the people like Reese and Callison, who are working hard to help local students develop real-world skills that will help them compete in the modern economy.
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