By Sally Greenberg, NCL Executive Director Once again, our NCL LifeSmarts team outdid itself - the competitions in Miami finished today amid a great deal of excitement and nail biting as the four semifinalists Arizona, Maryland, Kansas, and North Dakota began their morning competitions, leading to the finals where North Dakota and Maryland squared off, and with the Maryland team scoring a decisive victory and becoming our LifeSmarts champions for 2010. The Maryland team's coach, a homeschooling and farmer Mom, whose son was captain of the team, explained to me the intense work that went into her kids taking first prize. Since they are all homeschooled, they have more flexibility in their day. She reached out to private and public schools to get their participation, but the officials she talked to said they or their kids were just too busy to devote the kind of time she expected. So she arranged for her team to meet twice a week for three hours, and they've been doing that since last September. The hardest part for the kids is learning the names of federal agencies and what agencies under them do - like the fact that the Bureau of Land Management falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Interior. If you live in Washington DC, knowing this kind of information is part of your DNA. However, if you live in rural Frederick County, Maryland and you're 15 or 16 or 17 years old, you have to commit these details to memory. The team visited real people who could teach them valuable information, such as a mortgage officer in a bank and a funeral home owner, to learn about rules regulating funeral home practices under the Federal Trade Commission regulations. They tested each other and researched topics on their own to bring back to the group. The knowledge these kids from Maryland clearly had gained in preparing for LifeSmarts showed throughout the three days of competitions. They had quick answers to most questions, even on the most complex topics, and seemed at ease with the process. But then again, many of the teams were well prepared and every one of our young participants is surely a savvier consumer after participating in our program. Our LifeSmarts Team at NCL - led by Lisa Hertzberg and assisted by Brandi Williams, Emily Stevenson, Carol McKay, Theresa Smith, Terry Kush, and Dana Brunson - with a huge assist from Seth Woods, NCL board member and alum of LifeSmarts from Kentucky, surpassed past national competitions by all accounts. Congratulations to the kids, their coaches, their families and thanks to our sponsors for supporting the cause of creating a new generation of consumer-savvy teens.