Chelsea High School wins another State Championship
The Chelsea High School Personal Finance team has won the state title four straight years with the 2021 team delivering a high-achieving performance.
This year’s team had one of the most dominant wins of any of the previous teams when it won the challenge’s quiz bowl 14-2 against a very good Northville High School team.
The Sun Times News reached out to team advisor and CHS teacher Matt Pedlow to get a better idea about this latest title in a competition that can be described as very unique.
Pedlow said the Personal Finance Challenge is made up of two rounds with the first being a case study of a fictional family and all of their finances, including their savings, investments, taxes, and debt. The students are given around two-three hours to create a financial plan and then present it to the judges.
He said teams are divided into two different rooms where they present their findings to a panel of financial experts, and from there the top two teams from each room then move on to a quiz bowl for the state finals.
The Challenge is run throughout the U.S. and the winner from each state moves on to the national semi-finals with typically the top 12 teams from there moving onto the national finals, which will take place towards the end of May.
Here in Michigan, it is organized by the Michigan Council on Economic Education, which describes the challenge as an opportunity for high school students to demonstrate their knowledge of Personal Finance by competing with other students across the state.
The judges were impressed by the ability of the team from Chelsea to simplify the plan in understandable terms with action items for the client.
The judges select the top two teams who advance to the quiz bowl round to determine the state champion..
When asked about Chelsea’s success, Derek D'Angelo, President of the Michigan Council on Economic Education, said he thinks “the success of Chelsea is attributable to a community that values education and an amazing teacher in Matt Pedlow.”
He said it's evident that Pedlow develops strong relationships with his students, who know how much he cares and is invested in their success.
“Mr. Pedlow has won numerous awards, including national teacher of the year from the Council on Economic Education,” D'Angelo said. “Mr. Pedlow brought in a former judge in the competition from the University of Michigan Credit Union to work with his students."
This year, Chelsea was up against Detroit Country Day, Northville, and the International Academy at Bloomfield Hills.
In looking over this year’s accomplishments so far, Pedlow said he’s proud of the team and their hard work.
“The four young men who represented Chelsea did an outstanding job preparing for the state finals,” he said of CHS students Will Barhite, Evan Eidt, Evan Sing and Ruben Furst.
He and the team met a number of times outside of their normal classroom hour in preparation. Pedlow said the team learned how to craft a financial plan, learned all of the terms of finance, and most importantly- how to present their findings to a panel of judges. They also spent time doing practice quiz bowls, which really helped out when they made the finals.
The formation of this winning team started when Furst and Barhite approached Pedlow during their junior year about potentially starting an investing club at CHS. However, Pedlow made a counter offer and told them they could be part of the Personal Finance Challenge team when they took AP Economics with him.
To round out the team, Pedlow said Sing and Eidt both were easy choices because, “they are both very intelligent and have proved to be great at presenting the case studies.”
“Plus, Will's older brother Zach Barhite was part of the 2018 team that won the National Championship, so I know he is excited to win the state title and move forward towards our goal of another national championship,” Pedlow said.
The Sun Times News reached out to the team to get their reaction.
“It is a pretty big accomplishment becoming state champions and it feels especially good as this is information I will be using for the rest of my life,” said Will Barhite, who did cite a sibling rivalry and his brother as motivation and the, “fact that everything I learned is very applicable.”
He described the competition as “essentially turning ourselves in to financial advisors for a fictional family in order to help them out as much as possible.”
Eidt said the win was exciting “because it was a completely new experience for me and there's a history of Chelsea doing well. It was very high pressure, but we put in the work and it paid off.”
He said he was motivated to be on this team because he’s known many people who've been successful on the team in the past, and because Mr. Pedlow has a great reputation for selecting and teaching his groups to excel in the competition.
“It was completely different from everything else I've been involved with, but it seemed like something that I wanted to be a part of,” Eidt said.
For Sing, continuing to help make the CHS team a success while learning has been a motivating factor as well.
“Hearing about the success of the team during my freshman and sophomore years, I knew I wanted to be a part of it,” Sing said. “I love competing so this was a great opportunity to become an expert in a new area and use my new expertise to help our team to victory. It feels extremely rewarding to perform so well in a field I knew nothing about a few months ago. My skills in presentation have also improved tremendously thanks to the competition.”