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AzaLea O'Neal is wearing a red shirt while standing in front of logo of a yellow Monarch lion.

Next Gen Personal Finance (NGPF), a non-profit committed to ensuring that all high school students in the U.S. have access to a semester-long course in personal finance by 2030, has recognized AzaLea O’Neal from John Marshall High School as an Honorable Mention Award recipient in their 4th annual PAYBACK Challenge Scholarship Contest. O’Neal, a senior, will receive a $1,000 award from NGPF to be used for educational purposes.

After playing PAYBACK, an award-winning college simulation game, students were able to choose between writing a short essay or creating a short video in response to this prompt: After playing PAYBACK, you have a better idea of what to expect in college. But, COVID-19 has changed the way college looks and feels. How will your college decision-making change because of the pandemic?

Nearly 1,000 teachers nominated the best student essay from their classes. Submissions were evaluated based on the following criteria: creativity, clarity and demonstration of an understanding of key concepts learned from playing PAYBACK.

“During the contest period, over 210,000 students played PAYBACK,” noted NGPF Co-Founder, Tim Ranzetta. “It was incredible to see such creativity from students and to see the impact this game has had on their attitudes and actions as they decide on their educational path after high school. Our gratitude goes out to the educators who brought PAYBACK to their students during remote learning this year and facilitated amazing discussions that followed. With covid-19 disrupting the plans of so many students, these conversations are more crucial than ever.”

This scholarship opportunity was offered through the John Marshall High School’s Personal Finance course, taught by Megan Pintus, which is an available elective for all students.

PAYBACK received a Webby Award for best Social Impact game in 2017 and was featured in the New York Times. The game is free to play and is available at timeforpayback.com.