National Consumers League

End of an era for Illinois LifeSmarts


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By Lisa Hertzberg, LifeSmarts Program Director I just returned from a very successful Illinois state LifeSmarts competition at West Chicago High School in West Chicago, Illinois, hosted by State Coordinator Don Zabelin at his home school. Zabelin coached the winning team that will represent Illinois in Miami Beach in just seven weeks! Before heading to Florida, the West Chicago 1 team members will be studying up on 529s, simple interest, and mattress flammability, but they had a very strong showing in all other areas and ran the table to go unbeaten in the double-elimination competition. For years, Zabelin has always had a great group of volunteer competition officials representing organizations such as the IL AGO, FTC, IL Securities Commission, Money Management International, Bridgestone, and DeVry University. He makes time during the competition to allow students to hear from all of the officials, and Wally Kleinfeldt of the BBB had perhaps the most direct message of the day, encouraging the students to always do their homework as consumers before any major purchase: “You’ll be doing homework for the rest of your life.” This competition marked the end of an era, as Zabelin passed the torch to Debra Bartman, who will take over the role of Illinois state coordinator this summer. We wish Don the best as he retires after 33 years of teaching – congratulations on a wonderful career! Don, stay in touch – and don’t forget to write several hundred LifeSmarts questions for us in your newly-found spare time!