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April 1, 2013

San Luis students to compete

Travel is appealing and nerve-wracking for the four seniors set to represent California in a national consumer competition.

"I'm still worried about getting left at the airport, losing my stuff," said Cisco Garcia, the 17-year-old team captain.

The opportunity for travel also was a big part of why he joined the quartet, Cisco said.

The San Luis High School team will go to Atlanta to compete with 41 other teams from across the country in the National Consumers League's 2013 National LifeSmarts Championship. The competition is April 20-23.

The seniors will be adding travel and maneuvering airports to the list of real-world knowledge they gain in practice and competition. LifeSmarts covers five areas of consumer awareness: health and safety, personal finance, technology, consumer rights and responsibilities, and environment. The idea is to develop the consumer and marketplace skills of teens.

Karen Ellington, a math teacher and the team's coach, said question topics range from tax forms to state industries.

"It's a lot of things that adults know that generally teenagers might not know yet," she said. "So it's giving them that kind of education."

During practice March 21, the quartet used "Jeopardy"-style buzzers to go head to head with real estate agents from Century 21 M&M and Associates. The questions included "You are a victim of identity theft, how can you prove the debt is not yours?" "Which federal agency calculates the Consumer Price Index?" and "In cell phone technology, the acronym '4G' stands for ..." to name a few.

Out of the seven years San Luis High has participated, it has produced five state champions. The team members take an online test, and the student with the highest score in California is invited to the national version.

Principal John Lupini said his school has embraced the program because it offers a unique experience for the continuation campus.

"It's one of the things that they can do, where they can compete against any school and it's a level playing field," Lupini said. "We don't have to be in a league to do it. We don't have to have a huge budget."

The San Luis team will face public, private, charter and home-school groups in Atlanta.

Lupini said having a high school graduate leave with some of that knowledge, along with the standard U.S. history, math and science, makes that individual a smarter consumer.

"Basically, you're turning education into a sport," he said. "And, everybody likes to win."

Ellington said the team is trying to raise $7,000 for travel expenses. The team has raised about $2,000, Ellington said, from individuals and businesses. Anyone interested in donating to the team should contact Ellington at (209) 826-8410 or by email at

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