May 02, 2018

Press Release: NGPF Announces 2018 National Winners in Inaugural PAYBACK Challenge

PALO ALTO, Calif., May 3, 2018 - Next Gen Personal Finance (NGPF), a non-profit committed to ensuring that ALL students leave high school with the skills needed to thrive in an increasingly complex financial world, is pleased to announce the ten National Winners in their inaugural PAYBACK Challenge.

This essay contest attracted over 500 submissions from students in all fifty states. After playing the award-winning game, PAYBACK, students wrote a 250 word essay with the following prompt:

How could you use the online game, PAYBACK, to have a conversation with your parent/guardian about paying for college?”

Each of the 10 National Winners listed below will receive a $5,000 award from NGPF to be used for educational purposes:

  • Haley Bechard, Bellows Free Academy (St Albans, VT)
  • Jason Deerfield, Model High School (Richmond, KY)
  • Skyler Herman, Montville Township High School (Montville, NJ)
  • Jennifer Hollfelder, Needham High School (Needham, MA)
  • Tyler Kert, Cashmere High School (Cashmere, WA)
  • Clare Kohl, Shelby-Rising City Public Schools (Shelby, NE)
  • Aleksandr Kralovec, West De Pere Middle School (De Pere, WI)
  • Loren Negron, Waitsburg High School (Waitsburg, WA)
  • Kim Ngo, Wilcox High School (Santa Clara, CA)
  • Ally Nyquist, Stayton High School (Stayton, OR)

“Over 60,000 students played PAYBACK during the contest period,” noted NGPF Founder, Tim Ranzetta. “Reading through hundreds of essays demonstrated how PAYBACK spurred so many thoughtful conversations between students and their parents/guardians. Congratulations to the National Finalists and for all who participated!”


Here are brief excerpts from each of the ten National Winners essays:

“Going to college is a road that can lead to financial risk. It is filled with traps, ensnaring travelers to acquire college debt. Yet, after playing the game Payback, I have learned that the risk can be managed by carefully weighing every decision I make.”

Loren Negron, Waitsburg High School (Waitsburg, WA)

“College is a game. Year after year, countless students and parents pay to play only to be beat by the system. They’ve trained long and hard, but only for Level 1: Getting In.”

Kim Ngo, Wilcox High School (Santa Clara, CA)

“To entice my Mom, offering to trade 20 minutes of kitchen clean up for 15 minutes of time playing Payback would suffice. Although skeptical, she’d agree and then be so pleased to share about her private college experience… Capturing my Dad’s attention would require a wash and vacuum session with his Ford F150. He would then welcome a discussions of the opportunity costs associated with his associate’s degree from community college…”

Tyler Kert, Cashmere High School (Cashmere, WA)

“After taking the Payback challenge, my brain was bursting with new ideas, key concepts, and important skills that I can apply towards my studies… One idea that I observed while playing the game can be explained by my favorite science quote, Newton’s Third Law of Motion, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” In college, students, including me, will be exposed to countless decisions that will need to be made. These decisions will have a positive or negative ‘reaction’ on life.”

Aleksandr Kralovec, West De Pere Middle School (De Pere, WI)

“Payback has given me the knowledge and confidence to go into a conversation about college debt with my parents armed with valuable information. I now understand more and it’s given me the ability to go into the conversation knowing it’s hard to save money for my college education with four kids, instead of going into it without confidence and accusing them of not caring.”

Ally Nyquist, Stayton High School (Stayton, OR)

“Using the interactive game, Payback, potential college freshman get a glance at how easy it is to accumulate debt while taking in what the college life has to offer. While it may be fun to ‘soak up the experience’, it’s far more important to be mindful of what you’re spending and how that weekend getaway could come back with an unexpected bill.”

Haley Bechard, Bellows Free Academy (St Albans, VT)

“After playing this game twice and escaping with a salary twice the size of my student debt, I asked my mother to play. She dropped out during sophomore year! After I finished laughing, she expressed how impressed she was with my mature decisions that I anticipate I will also make while in college.”

Jennifer Hollfelder, Needham High School (Needham, MA)

“Payback also helped me narrow down to types of colleges I would like to attend. I was to visualize tradeoffs between different choices I can make during my college career. For example, I saw while a community college is cheaper than a four-year institution, it is also less prestigious… By playing this game multiple times, I was able to find the path that best suited me and my family’s budget.”

Jason Deerfield, Model High School (Richmond, KY)

“As I played Payback, I began to wonder if my expectations for paying for college were the same as my parents. I realized an important discussion needed to take place. To help me start the conversation, I asked my parents to play Payback with me.”

Clare Kohl, Shelby-Rising City Public Schools (Shelby, NE)

“Remember the awkwardness of your parents talking about the birds and the bees? Well, when it comes time to talk about college, it’s your turn to start the awkward dialogue.”

Skyler Herman, Montville Township High School (Montville, NJ)

NGPF announced last week the 150 Honorable Mention award winners, who will each receive $500 towards their educational pursuits. PAYBACK recently received a Webby Award for best Social Impact game and is a free game available at

About Next Gen Personal Finance

Next Gen Personal Finance (NGPF), has become the "one-stop shop" for financial educators looking for high-quality, engaging curriculum to equip students with skills to thrive in their future.  In just three years, NGPF's comprehensive online curricular resources and teacher training is used by over 10,000 teachers in all fifty states. They love NGPF's approach that can be summarized as the 4 Cs: Curated, Comprehensive, Customizable and Current (and it's FREE too!).

Media Contact

Tim Ranzetta

Next Gen Personal Finance


About the Authors

Laura Matchett

After graduating with an education degree and spending 7 years in an elementary classroom, Laura made the switch to the non-profit world and loves interacting with students, educators and business professionals across the country. She is passionate about all students having access to high quality education and views personal finance education as one way to ‘level the playing field’. When Laura is not locating or creating high quality educational resources, you can find her mountain biking or searching for the best ramen in town!

Danielle Bautista

Danielle is a native of Southern California and a recent graduate from the University of Maine, where she braved the frigid winters—a feat in and of itself—and earned her Bachelor's degree in International Affairs. She has a passion for working with non-profit organizations and serving populations in underprivileged communities. When Danielle isn't writing NGPF blog posts, spearheading various outreach projects, or managing contests and flash surveys, you can find her doing some sort of outdoor activity, learning a new hobby, or cracking what she thinks are witty puns!

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.

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