Alondra Sanchez

Alondra Sanchez, an American Canyon High senior, is one of 67 high school students nationwide to win a scholarship as part of H&R Block's "Budget Challenge."

Sometimes doing your homework, and putting in a little extra effort, can really pay off. Just ask Alondra Sanchez, a senior at American Canyon High School.

The quiet, unassuming teenager was given an assignment along with the 36 other kids in her Economics/Government class to participate in an online simulation that teaches young people the importance of personal finances.

Created by H&R Block, the “Budget Challenge” game exposes teens to real-world decision-making about balancing bills, rent, savings and retirement all while trying to stay within a budget and not go into debt or fall behind on payments.

Sanchez did so well at the simulation, which included several online quizzes, that she was informed at the end of it that she had won a $20,000 scholarship.

She was one of 67 high school students nationwide to receive the honor.

“I was just doing it because it was part of a class assignment,” said Sanchez. “I was like, ‘I won a scholarship? What!’ I was so surprised and excited!”

Alondra’s accomplishment was a very proud moment for her family, on top of a couple more firsts she’ll soon have to her credit.

In June, she will graduate from ACHS and become the first person in her family — including her parents — to receive a high school diploma. From there she will become the first family member to attend college.

The $20,000 scholarship will help her attend California State University, Sacramento, where she wants to study psychology and criminal justice. Her career plan is to become a police detective.

Her teacher, Deborah Thorne, said her feat was “impressive.” Many of her other students struggled to complete the simulation without running into financial trouble.

“A lot of the kids found they were going into debt really quickly,” said Thorne.

The Budget Challenge was set up so that kids had to gauge many different options in creating their home budget, which was locked in for the most part once the simulation began. If they made poor choices from the start, like going for a glitzy cell phone, they had a tough time adjusting.

“What Alondra did was investigate ahead of time which companies and utilities would give her the most savings,” said Thorne. “Alondra was right on with her decisions.”

Thorne said she was so happy for Alondra, who had performed well in her class, but tended to fly below the radar because of her quiet personality.

The scholarship, however, turned her into “a rising star … who just took off with this simulation.”

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