Emporia Gazette, Dec. 12, 2020 – Click to read original story

An Emporia High School senior recently claimed first place in a national financial literacy competition sponsored by Jobs for America’s Graduates. 

Erica Zhou Wang, who has participated in the JAG-Kansas program throughout her entire high school career, was announced the winner of the contest last week. JAG-K is a multi-year, in-school program for students in grades 7 – 12 designed to help successfully transition students into post-secondary school, the military, or directly into the workforce with marketable skills. 

Wang qualified for the national competition after competing at both the regional and state levels. When she competed at the state level, the test was more of a generalized math test. 

For Wang, who excels in mathematics and is currently taking Calculus, that was no problem. The national competition, however, brought in some extra elements.

“When I was the regional competitions and stuff, it was always math-based,” she said. “There was a little bit of trig, and there was algebra and all that stuff in there, but then when we got to a national level, it was more asking about credit, insurance, and interest rates and stuff.” 

Ali Macias, JAG-K Career Specialist at Emporia High School, said they were not aware of the extra components of the national test until Wang received the link. While typically students who qualify for the JAG nationals competition are invited to a week-long trip to Washington, D.C., Wang had to compete virtually. 

“We found out when they sent me the link for the financial literacy tests, and so we don’t get to see it as a specialist and we have no idea, so we can’t influence our students,” Macias said, adding that Wang had 60 minutes to complete 50 questions. “When she opened the link, she couldn’t close it and come back, she had to complete it in that window.” 

Macias had, just the week before the Dec. 1 – 3 competition, given her students a lesson financial literacy. 

Still, Wang said she went into the test expecting a math test and was fairly certain she did not do well at all. When she found out last week that she had actually won the competition, she didn’t believe it. 

“I honestly didn’t believe it,” she said with a laugh. “I was like, ‘This is not possible.’ And then I started getting all these calls and I’m like, ‘Oh, maybe I did.'”

Wang has received calls from JAG’s leadership from all over the country congratulating her.

Macias said Wang puts her all into her education, and it shows how much time she dedicated to preparing and studying.

“I think a true testament to how much Erica really does take time on her own to find knowledge,” Macias said. “We had just done some lessons in JAG right before that. We had just done a lesson in class, we walked through all of these forms, we did some scenarios on how to calculate interest rates and the impact that credit has and how your credit scores are calculated. And, with COVID, I don’t know how many of my students are really listening, but I think Erica is one that always does. Hopefully, I assisted her there somewhat, but gosh, overall I’m just so proud of Erica.”

This year, 10 JAG-K students reached the finals of virtual competitions that culminate the Regional and State Career Development Conferences held in the spring. The four competition categories are Public Speaking (presenting a prepared speech), Employability Skills (participating in a mock interview that includes a resume, cover letter and job application), Financial Literacy, and Project-Based Learning (the student gives a presentation about a project they created and implemented in the current year).

To learn more about JAG-K, visit www.jagkansas.org, ‘Jobs for America’s Graduates-Kansas’ on Facebook, and on Twitter at @JAG_Kansas.