Walker County 4-H team members participate in the National LifeSmarts Championship in San Diego, Calif., at the end of April. From left are Rylie Chamlee, Elizabeth Suits, Tori Lowrance and Lauren Pike. (Contributed photo by Casey Hobbs)

Students from Walker County's 4-H club took home two awards during the National LifeSmarts Championship in San Diego, Calif., last month.

The competition, hosted each year by the National Consumers League, prepares students to enter the real world as smart consumers by testing their knowledge on five key topics: consumer rights and responsibilities, the environment, health and safety, personal finance, and technology.

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The Walker County 4-H students' colorful T-shirt design illustrates the five key components of consumer education highlighted during the National LifeSmarts Championship. The concept won a design contest during the competition held in San Diego, Calif., last month. (Contributed photo by Casey Hobbs)
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Walker County 4-H team members, shown in red, had a chance to meet students from all over the country during the National LifeSmarts Championship in San Diego, Calif. (Contributed photo by Casey Hobbs)

"This LifeSmarts competition was an experience that I will never forget," said LaFayette High School junior Rylie Chamlee. "I learned so many new things through this once in a lifetime opportunity, and I was so blessed to be able to go."

A majority of the competition was quiz-bowl style, with teams from more than 30 schools going head to head, but students also had a chance to gain recognition for their work throughout the past school year with accolades like the Community Service High and Wide Award, which the Walker team won for members' service at local schools.

Throughout the month of March, the team's four members visited Saddle Ridge Middle School to create awareness related to the potential dangers of over-the-counter medicine. Going class to class, the group taught hour-long lessons to help students understand the warnings, directions and ingredients on drug facts labels.

"The majority of the kids had never even seen a drug facts label," said team coach and county extension agent Casey Hobbs. "Some of them had even raised their hand to admit that they'd taken it just on a whim from a friend or another adult that wasn't their parent. So this gave them more awareness as to why it's important that they understand it just as well as their parents."

The 4-H team also visited Gilbert Elementary School to teach lessons on "safety smarts," with sessions covering online safety, travel safety, protecting the environment, and preventing the spread of germs.

As a result of her work with Gilbert Elementary as a "Safety Smart Ambassador," LaFayette High School senior Lauren Pike, who serves as the team's captain, was one of the eight students nationwide to receive a $1,000 LifeSmarts scholarship.

In addition to the community service award, the team also won LifeSmarts' T-shirt contest, which challenged students to design a shirt that incorporated the consumer-education competition's five key elements.

Working together, the Walker team created a colorful pie chart design with each of the five elements represented, then labeled it with their theme: "Thinking life's problems through one question at a time."

The winning design will be considered for use during future LifeSmarts competitions, Hobbs said.

As a newly formed team, this was the Walker County students' first time attending the championship event. They were one of five teams invited to nationals through an automatic bid process that included submitting a formal PowerPoint presentation and individually taken tests, among other qualifications.

Though the team did not place among the top five in the quiz-bowl portion of the competition, studying up for game day has taught the students life skills about credit cards, medical bills, privacy laws and other aspects of society they might not have gleaned otherwise.

"Serving as captain of Walker County's LifeSmarts Team has taught me many things about how to be a wise consumer and has made me a more educated citizen," said Lauren. "I would recommend this team for any high school student, as it prepares you for life after high school."

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