Dec 05, 2023

NGPF Announces Winners of 7th Annual PAYBACK Challenge

We're pleased to recognize two students as National Grand Prize winners in their 2023 PAYBACK Challenge, NGPF’s annual PAYBACK Challenge gives high school students across the country a chance to win a $2500 Grand Prize for their educational pursuits while developing an understanding of what college life will be like. 


The 2023 winners are:

Priscilla Guerra of Impact Early College High School (Baytown, TX)

Priscilla Guerra


Yra Climaco of Castaic High School (Castaic, CA)

Yra Climaco


An interview with the winners is available on NGPF's podcast.

In addition to the two National Grand Prize scholarship winners, 30 students were recognized as Honorable Mention Award recipients, each receiving a $1,000 scholarship for educational pursuits. 

And as part of NGPF's commitment to increase access to financial education within districts serving majority Black or Hispanic students, another four $1,000 awards were specifically given to students from participating NGPF grant districts: Fulton County Schools, Long Beach Unified, New York City Public Schools, and Prince George's County Public Schools.

View a full list of scholarship winners.


Each student participating in the NGPF Payback Challenge played PAYBACK, an award-winning college simulation game, and then chose between writing an essay or creating a video in response to the following prompt:

Compose a letter to your future self, referencing specific experiences from your PAYBACK journey. How will these lessons guide you when facing real-life decisions about finance and college?

Submissions were evaluated based on creativity, clarity, and demonstration of an understanding of key concepts learned from playing PAYBACK. 

Enjoy these submissions from each of the National Grand Prize Winners:


"Echale ganas Pila," is what Papa would say to give it your all no matter the adversity. He works hard to put food on the table even if it's Great Value, and he made sure your life was better than his because Mexico wasn't kind to the unfortunate.

Now, it is time for you to make the same sacrifices and be financially conscious like he was all those times he bought you new school clothes rather than new work boots when his started to talk or choose to work late for you to have glitter pens and twinkle-toed shoes because Papa knows you love school more with them. 

There will be sacrifices you'll make in college that will either set you back or push you forward. Just like Papa, the choice that pushes you forward often requires the sacrifice of missing out. Some friends won't respect your time or are not as money conscious as you, so be sure to surround yourself with individuals that will eat with you in the dining halls and stay with you in the dorms. There will be opportunities like internships, summer jobs, and buying used-books that can all open doors to networking, gaining experience, and save enough money to study abroad. 

There is no financial forgiveness for immigrants like Papa, but you have the opportunities to seize and take advantage of to heed the privileged and educated life he wanted for you. 

Don't buy glitter pens Pila; now is payback for Papa, so echale ganas.


-Winning submission by Priscilla Guerra




Dear Yra, 


$18,933. This number haunts me as I know this may be my debt soon. Our parents already struggle to support our family of eight and our six cousins who recently arrived from the Philippines. Playing "PayBack" I experienced a well-needed reality check along with seemingly impossible decisions. 

As I sit here typing this letter to you, I've made 3 essential rules for you to carry to college: 


1) Prioritize Education :

I know I'm not that much of a party animal, and I hope you still aren't. Realize what you came to college for... it's for us to be successful in life. Opting out of a fraternity in "PayBack" significantly boosted my focus, and I expect nothing less from you. 


2) Work :

Right now, I'm an LA County Lifeguard. Keeping this job will save you from debt. Working 20 hours a week, I was able to save around $2,000 each year according to PayBack. Although this may seem miniscule, it will keep you from an additional $10k in debt.


3) Enjoy Life! :

You don't have to sit in your room all day and slurp down boxes of ramen. Eat out with friends. Join a student group! In Payback, it never hurt too much to do these actions. It boosted my happiness throughout college. But I don't blame you if you want to eat more ramen.

With these rules in your arsenal, I believe you can defeat the monster of debt that awaits you. 


17-year-old you :)


-Winning submission by Yra Climaco



About the Author

Hannah Rael

As NGPF's Marketing Communications Manager, Hannah (she/her) helps spread the word about NGPF's mission to improve the financial lives of the next generation of Americans.

Mail Icon

Subscribe to the blog

Join the more than 11,000 teachers who get the NGPF daily blog delivered to their inbox: