Knowledge and Insights

Money$peak Teams Innovate & Share to Win Big

May 2018

Princeton, NJ – The fourth annual Money$peak Competition, presented by the Mercadien Foundation and Rider University, kicked off to a crowd of cheering fans at 6pm on Wednesday, May 23, 2018 at Rider’s Bart Luedeke Center.  The competition expanded notably this year, with participating student teams from Bordentown Regional, Colts Neck, Hopewell Valley, Jackson Liberty, Lawrence, Montgomery, New Egypt, Rancocas Valley Regional, Seneca, Steinert, and West Windsor Plainsboro North high schools.  To make it to the regional Money$peak competition, the student teams first competed in their home high schools.  In total, nearly 80 teams, representing over 400 students, competed this spring, before the final ten teams were selected to represent their districts and meet at Money$peak.

The 2018 Money$peak Competition was made possible through generous support from the Mercadien Group, New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Group, Rider University, Fulton Bank, and the Investors Foundation.

The challenge to the students: Create a short, three-to-five-minute, original presentation on a specific topic from the required high school personal finance course and present it to a panel of high-profile judges from the finance profession. Teams of two-to-six students used the important information learned in the classroom to create slideshows, videos and songs to creatively express their personal finance lessons to the judges and audience.

When the New Jersey Department of Education implemented the half-year personal finance course requirement for high school graduation, students in New Jersey got the opportunity to take big steps toward a lifetime of financial wellness. From this starting point, the Mercadien Foundation seeks to encourage students’ forward momentum to ensure every student has a solid understanding of the basics of personal finance when they leave high school and enter college and the workforce.  Money$peak allows students to dive deeper into their education by making their own presentations, taking the knowledge they’ve gained and creating their own innovative material. “With Money$peak, we’re helping to build a proactive 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.

Expert judges assessed teams on content, clarity, creativity, and performance. The judging panel included professionals from the financial field, including Mark Charbonneau, Vice President, Commercial Relationship Manager, Fulton Bank of New Jersey; Patricia Hartpence, Assistant Vice President of Corporate Giving, New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Group; Ken Kamen, President, Mercadien Asset Management; Cynthia Newman, PhD, Dean, College of Business Administration, Rider University; and Darren Stewart, Business Advocate, Mercer County Office of Economic Development and Sustainability.

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

First Place:  “MK Productions,” presenting on credit cards and debt, from West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North, advised by teacher Albert Paulsson. Team members: McKenna Carpenter and Kyra Musmanno. $1,500 team award, $1,000 school grant for personal finance education.

Second Place:  “Team Scotties,” presenting on career and earnings, from Bordentown Regional High School, advised by teacher Kara Lynch. Team members: Thomas Hendrickson and Jaspreet Singh. $1,000 team award, $750 school grant for personal finance education.

Third Place:  “RV FBLA,” presenting on career and earnings, from Rancocas Valley Regional High School, advised by teacher Carolee Gray. Team members: Kiah Champion, Grace Ann Clothier, and Harleen Gill. $500 team award, $500 school grant for personal finance education.

Honorable Mention:  “Fresh Friends of Credit,” presenting on credit cards and debt, from Colts Neck High School, advised by teacher Robin Soriano. Team members: Alexandra Bell, Elizabeth Borao, Mandy Pelenski, Nicole Policastro, Jeremy Rund, and Zachary Schubert. $250 team award, $250 school grant for personal finance education.

Honorable Mention:  “Conscious Credit Cast,” presenting on credit cards and debt, from Jackson Liberty High School, advised by teacher Arlene Wacha. Team members: Shannon Conroy, Ryan Drew, and Julianna Martin. $250 team award, $250 school grant for personal finance education.

Albert Paulsson, teacher at West Windsor Plainsboro High School North stated, “The classroom has always provided valuable learning experiences for students. The Money$peak competition takes this learning to another level by affording students the opportunity to combine lessons learned in the classroom with themes that prepare them for life.  The students in my Economics course truly enjoyed the Money$peak program and developed many creative and informative presentations. It was certainly a thrill for Kyra and McKenna to represent our school and win the competition. The Money$peak program benefits every student that participates. Financial literacy is critical for making life’s most important decisions and the Money$peak program helps prepare students to be informed and responsible when faced with those decisions. Thank you Mercadien and all those who generously gave their time to help make the event possible.”

Suzanne Brown, teacher at Hopewell Valley Central High School said, “The Mercadien Foundation and the amazing sponsors have created an impressive event with the Money$peak program that allows students to apply the knowledge they’ve acquired throughout the year. It’s special because it requires them to engage at a higher level to create powerful messages about personal finance issues to present to others. Money$peak is the perfect opportunity to encourage students to come out of their comfort zones and to master life skills such as time management, completing research, knowing your target audience, being confident and concise, and honing critical presentation skills.  Money$peak is a win-win for everyone involved.”

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.

2018 Money$peak Competition winning team MK Productions, from West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North, with judges. From left to right: Patricia Hartpence (Judge), Darren Stewart (Judge), Cynthia Newman (Judge), McKenna Carpenter (Student), Albert Paulsson (Teacher), Kyra Musmanno (Student), Mark Charbonneau (Judge), Christopher Seiz (Mercadien Foundation Executive Director/Emcee) Digesh Patel (Mercadien Foundation Board Member/Emcee).

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 offers a full spectrum of accounting, advisory and tax services, including traditional auditing and financial reporting; federal, multi-state and international tax compliance and planning; compliance oversight; risk assessment; forensic and litigation support and family office services; management, board and technology consulting; and wealth management solutions.

Now celebrating 55 years of growth, Mercadien proudly provides these forward-thinking, relationship-driven financial and strategic services – designed to maximize profitability and wealth, minimize taxes and risk, and enhance systems and efficiencies – to privately-owned companies of nearly every type and industry, as well as to financial institutions, nonprofit organizations, government entities, and wealthy individuals and families.  Learn more at

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. More information can be found at

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