Waipahu Students Gaining ‘LifeSmarts’


Quick, answer this: What’s the most environmentally friendly type of household heating? Is it natural gas, electric baseboards or coal? And what kind of seafood contains the most mercury? Swordfish, oysters or shrimp?


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Five students representing Waipahu High School won the 10th annual LifeSmarts Consumer Education Competition last month. Gathering around the trophy are (from left) Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs office of securities commissioner Theresa Kong Kee, students Marc Dave Ramierez, Cia Dela Cruz, Mark Abucay (kneeling), Maximiano Saludares, Roel Jake Ibanez, coach Cindy Takara and DCCA commissioner Tung Chan. Photo courtesy Brent Suyama, DCCA communications officer.

If you answered natural gas and swordfish, you answered correctly – and now you understand the breadth of the challenge put before the Waipahu High School team that won the statewide 10th annual LifeSmarts Consumer Education Competition last month. The five-student team is now preparing for the national competition April 26-29 in Orlando, Fla.

Using a “game show” format, LifeSmarts tests student knowledge in five general categories: personal finance, health and safety, environment, technology, and consumer rights and responsibilities.

It seems like simple stuff, but team coach and teacher Cindy Takara said it can be full of surprises.

“These are actually general terms and things I think everyone should know in these aspects of health, environment – common knowledge that they should have learned in school … that apply in every area for everyone. Male, female, doesn’t matter,” Takara said.

This is the fifth time Waipahu High has entered the contest. This year’s team consists of students Roel Jake Ibanez, Maximiano Saludares, Mark Abucay, Marc Dave Ramierez and Cia Dela Cruz. And right now they are in the thick of preparations for nationals.

Takara said the students meet with her three times a week during lunch and homeroom, where they drill on different content areas.

LifeSmarts is sponsored by the National Consumers League on a federal level.

In Hawaii, the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Office of the Securities Commissioner and Hawaii Credit Union League run the program.

Takara is happy to report that DCCA has found corporate sponsors for the team’s trip to nationals, meaning that they can focus more on studying than fundraising.

Takara is glad that her students have the chance to compete, but she’s perhaps more pleased that they’re gaining essential life skills.

“If everyone had this knowledge, I think they would make a lot of better decisions. Even simple things like defrosting food – how safe is that? What is the proper way?

“When I was reading, guiding the kids, I was like, ‘Whoa, I don’t actually follow that practice to the tee. I might be hurting my family and not realizing it.’

“These are things everyone should know,” Takara said.