Knowledge and Insights

Mercer County High Schools Win Big in Money$peak Competition

June 2015

Money$peak Judges 2015

The inaugural Money$peak Competition, presented by the Mercadien Foundation and Rider University, with participating teams from Hopewell Valley, Lawrence, Nottingham, Steinert, and West Windsor Plainsboro North high schools, kicked off to a crowd of supporters on Wednesday, June 3, 2015. The Mercadien Group, Rider University, New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Group, First Choice Bank, Fulton Bank, Random Thought Studio, and Titan Technologies made this experience for Mercer County high school students possible through their support. Some of these sponsors are pictured right.

“The New Jersey Department of Education took a big step forward when they made a half-year course in personal finance a high school graduation requirement. Now, the Mercadien Foundation seeks to keep that forward momentum going in order to insure every student has a solid understanding of the basics of personal finance when they leave high school and enter their next stage of life. With Money$peak, students must fully understand their topic area before presenting it. With greater, long-lasting understanding, we build a generation of young adults who take charge of their financial future and excel in their chosen fields,” says Christopher Seiz, Executive Director of the Mercadien Foundation.

The challenge: create a short, innovative presentation based on a specific topic area from your high school personal finance course and present to a panel of high-profile judges from the finance community. Teams of two-to-four high school students used the important information learned in the classroom to create everything from PowerPoint presentations to animated videos and rap songs to creatively express their personal finance lessons to judges and audience members on stage at Rider University’s Bart Luedeke Center Theater.

Expert judges, pictured left, were invited from various areas of finance to assess teams on content, clarity, creativity, and performance. The judging panel included Anthony Carabelli, Jr., Business Advocate, Mercer County Office of Economic Development and Sustainability; John Farrell, Assistant Dean, College of Business Administration, Rider University; Mary Halupa, Director, Consumer Credit Counseling Service Program, Family Guidance Center of Mercer County; Patricia Hartpence, Vice President of Corporate Giving, New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Group; and Gary Zimmaro, Jr., Vice President of Commercial Lending, TD Bank.

Following presentations and scoring, trophies and awards were presented to the teams:

  • First Place: The Untraceables, pictured right, presenting on identity theft, from West Windsor Plainsboro North High School, advised by teacher Albert Paulsson. Team members: Gleb Bourtsev, Brandon Kocher, Sam Lichtenstein, and Adam Srikantha. $1,500 team award, $1,000 school grant for personal finance education.
  • Second Place: The LHS Protection Squad, presenting on identity theft, from Lawrence High School, advised by teachers Jeana Sabatini and Steven Keen. Team members: Nataliya Galyga, Katherine Monterosso, Jocelyn Recinos Orellana, and Robyn Seidman. $1,000 team award, $750 school grant for personal finance education.
  • Third Place: The Credit Report Authority, presenting on credit reporting, from Nottingham High School, advised by teacher Michael Bendorf. Team members: Elise Dusenshine, Vincent Morency, and Betsy Velasquez. $500 team award, $500 school grant for personal finance education.
  • Honorable Mention: The Investment, presenting on investments, from Hopewell Valley Central High School, advised by teacher Suzanne Brown. Team members: Connor Fedor, Jason Engongoro, Grant Kaufman, and Tim Regan. $250 team award, $250 school grant for personal finance education.
  • Honorable Mention: The Steinert Spartans, presenting on inflation, from Steinert High School, advised by teachers Kyle Flanagan and Nick Hover. Team members: Anna Beste, Braden Colon-Holmes, and Sharbel Skaff. $250 team award, $250 school grant for personal finance education

Albert Paulsson, teacher at West Windsor Plainsboro North says, “I cannot thank The Mercadien Foundation enough for the opportunity provided for our students. The experience was one they will always remember and the skills and teamwork required to compete will build their confidence and success in the real world. The students were congratulated in school by so many of their teachers and peers. We’re definitely looking forward to participating again next year.”

Within the next few weeks, student presentations will be available on the Money$peak website,, for use by educators as they teach these areas of personal finance, bridging the gaps in financial education and creating a central clearinghouse for education material distribution.

The Mercadien Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to create philanthropic and innovative programs to benefit the Mercer County community and New Jersey.

The Mercadien Group is a family of distinct companies created to serve the diverse and sophisticated needs of clients in a capacity far greater than any single organization can offer. The group is comprised of six individual companies providing accounting, auditing, tax planning and compliance, management consulting, technology, wealth management, outsourcing, and investment banking services.

Rider University, founded in 1865, is a comprehensive, private, coeducational university located in Lawrenceville and Princeton, New Jersey. With approximately 5,500 students studying at the undergraduate and graduate levels in the areas of business, education, liberal arts and sciences, music and the fine and performing arts, Rider’s academic experience offers a personal approach that is celebrated for educating talented students for citizenship, life and career success. During the 2014-2015 academic year, Rider will celebrate its 150th anniversary. More information can be found at