KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It's the season for top scholastic competitions -- children and teenagers going to state and national contests matching wits in science, geography, spelling and more. One competition tests our kids in what could be the most critical arena of knowledge of all -- life.
And this week's FOX 4 Reaching 4 Excellence Young Achievers are the Missouri high school champions of that academic game -- the LifeSmarts team from Ruskin High School.
They are five shining stars of Ruskin High School, sparkling in theater, music, sports, science and math, and all sorts of other academics and activities, including mastering the subject of living. In teacher Robert Nellis's college credit Economics class at Ruskin, they dive into a fast-paced and fun academic game played by students all over the country -- a game called LifeSmarts.
"LifeSmarts is something way different than class," says Ruskin LifeSmarts team member Michael Warren. "It engages your mind in so many different ways than just being in the classroom doing class work in the books and everything."
"I like (LifeSmarts) for my students because it helps give them a general background knowledge of what to expect in the adult world as they leave high school," says Nellis, who serves as facilitator for the team. "It helps give them general information to succeed in life."
LifeSmarts is often called the ultimate consumer challenge. It tests 6th graders through high school seniors in five major broad categories of life skills knowledge. There's Health and Safety, Technology, Personal Finance, Environment and Consumer Rights.
"You should be able to know these things so you will be able to live a normal, safe, productive life as human beings," says Ruskin LifeSmarts team member Austin Richards-Strassle.
And Austin, Michael and three other Ruskin seniors sure know life and living. Last month, in a high pressure game show atmosphere, they won the Missouri state high school championship of LifeSmarts.
"It was amazing, says Ruskin LifeSmarts team member Megan Eisentrager. "I can't even explain it any other way. The happiness I and the team felt was just, it was a picture perfect moment."
"Very satisfying, says Ruskin LifeSmarts team member Sarah Christian of the state victory. "We went in just to do our best. To have fun. And to win, to win was beyond expectations. It was wonderful. It was great for us. Great for Ruskin. And it made us proud."
And that's very important for this state championship team -- to show the rest of the Kansas City metro area what Ruskin is made of.
"Don't judge a book by its cover," says Ruskin LifeSmarts team member Tiffany Blake, of how some people stereotype Ruskin and its students. "There are many outstanding students here and they all have a chance to succeed just as much as anybody else can."
Now comes another chance to succeed beyond expectations. The Ruskin state championship team will travel to Philadelphia next month to compete in the national LifeSmarts challenge. Because of family and church commitments, Tiffany won't be going, but she's helping her teammates prepare -- with one goal in mind.
"This group of young people have made a mission, if you will, of showing the world that Ruskin is a ready school," says Nellis. "That they are proud of where they are from and the school they attend. They are demonstrating that Ruskin is a high school of caliber."
For them -- a big part of what living is all about.
As the Ruskin team gets to the national stage in LifeSmarts competition, they want the community to know, as well, about the support they are getting from American Century Investments. The Kansas City-based company is providing the team an all-expenses paid trip to Philadelphia to go for the national championship.
FOX 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism.
Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Monday on FOX 4 News at 8 a.m., every Wednesday on FOX 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on FOX 4 News at 5 p.m