NATCHEZ —Gracie Harrigill, Ethan Weadock and JB Burrell impressed judges with their confident smiles, outgoing personalities, professional-looking business attire and — most of all— their intelligence.
In April, the three Cathedral High School seniors went to Hinds Community College to compete with more than 20 teams statewide in the Mississippi Personal Finance Challenge, a state academic competition in financial literacy.
Cathedral never had a financial literacy class before this school year and it was the students’ first time competing against more experienced colleagues who had been in and won the competition before.
“We didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into,” Harrigill said. “We were walking in blind.”
However, the trio turned heads when they took second place. Their win earned them each a $250 scholarship, medals and a banner for their school.
“We lost only to a team (from Germantown High School) that took fourth place in the entire nation last year,” Burrell said.
They came to compete armed with half of a semester of knowledge their teacher Francis Daniels had drilled them on. They took a qualifying exam in the classroom at Cathedral to get a spot in the competition at HCC. There, they had to give a presentation to the judges.
They were given a case study, which was a paper packet of information about a fictitious family and their personal finances. From that, the trio presented a plan to get the fictional kids through college and help their parents retire with money in the bank.
This presentation took up a large percentage of what teams were graded on, so the students focused their effort on that.
“We came in with confidence and when we walked in we shook their hands,” Weadock said. “They told us we were the first group to shake their hands. That blew my mind.”
Harrigrill said when she graduates from Cathedral, she plans to study business administration and either finance or marketing at Louisiana Technical College with the goal of owning a real estate brokerage on the coast.
Burrell said he also plans to study at LA Tech and major in chemical engineering with a minor in entrepreneurship. He wants to move to Silicon Valley and work in a technology job.
Weadock has other plans.
“As of now, I’m registered for pre-med at Mississippi State University,” he said. “I do have an interest in business and entrepreneurship after taking this class.”
The students said one of the main reasons they competed was to make Daniels proud and to keep the financial literacy and economics class going.
“Honestly, I feel like it should be required,” Burrell said, adding they each elected to take it. “We learned so much stuff that we actually need to know, no matter what career you decide to go into.”