LifeSmarts is run by the National Consumers League to create empowered, informed young people.
Meet the National staff
- Lisa Hertzberg, Program Director
- Lisa has been with LifeSmarts for 24 years — first as a State Coordinator, and for the past 18 years as the national Program Director. She loves hearing stories from coaches and students about what LifeSmarts has meant to them! Strategy, fundraising, partnerships, and developing educational materials and competitions are some of Lisa’s favorite parts of the job. And she is gratified to know that the program has reached more than 1 million students over the past 25 years!
- Cheryl Varnadoe, National Outreach Coordinator
- Cheryl joined LifeSmarts in 2018 as the LifeSmarts Program Outreach Coordinator and telecommutes from Georgia. Before joining the National Consumers League, Cheryl worked for Georgia 4-H for 34 years as an Extension Agent and Georgia 4-H Specialist and served as the Georgia State LifeSmarts Coordinator. Her favorite part of LifeSmarts is seeing competitors grow in their knowledge of the essential life skills that are embedded in the program while they learn teamwork, decision making and leadership.
Meet the State Coordinators
NCL and LifeSmarts are fortunate to partner with amazing State Coordinators who are the face of the program at the state and local level. Visit the Coordinator page for more information on how to become a LifeSmarts State Coordinator.
Robert Van Dyke
Robert Van Dyke is the Colorado Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) State Adviser/ Assistant FACS Program Director with Colorado Career and Technical Education. He began serving as LifeSmarts state coordinator in 2017. His office provides the curriculum and program support for Career and Technical Education and encourages their programs to participate in LifeSmarts. Rob’s favorite part about LifeSmarts is the practical application of the material.
Gillian Andrews, Esq.
Gillian Andrews, Esq. is the Assistant Director, Deputy Attorney at the Delaware Department of Justice and serves as the DE state coordinator for LifeSmarts, where she began running the program in 2012. The Delaware Department of Justice and the Delaware Attorney General have supported LifeSmarts for more than a decade. Gillian believes LifeSmarts is a valuable part of educating Delaware students’ lives by imparting them with knowledge necessary to being savvier consumers. Her favorite part about LifeSmarts is seeing how much knowledge students gain and their resounding sportsmanship during live competitions.
Brittani Lee is a County Extension 4-H Agent with University of Georgia Extension/Georgia 4-H, and began serving as a co-Coordinator with Dr. Courtney Brown in 2018. Lee was a LifeSmarts coach and has been a member of the Georgia State LifeSmarts committee since 2013. Georgia 4-H offers the LifeSmarts program because it embodies the Georgia 4-H mission of assisting youth in acquiring knowledge, developing life skills, and forming attitudes that will enable them to become self-directing, productive and contributing members of society. Her favorite part of LifeSmarts is watching youth develop into knowledgeable young adults and gain confidence through their participation in the program.
Dr. Courtney Brown
Dr. Courtney Brown serves as a state Extension 4-H Specialist with University of Georgia Extension/Georgia 4-H, where she is responsible for Healthy Living and Family and Consumer Science programming. Dr. Brown started co-coordinating LifeSmarts in 2018 with Brittani Lee. Georgia 4-H supports LifeSmarts because the program fits in perfectly with the mission of Georgia 4-H by helping youth develop the skills to be smart adult consumers. She looks forward to seeing youth develop their real-world skills and have a great time while doing it! Courtney is excited to be part of the LifeSmarts team and looks forward to a great year.
Gwen Worlds is the Communication Services Program Manager with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Gwen has served Florida as LifeSmarts State Coordinator since 2005 and now shares the role with Vanessa Spero. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services supports LifeSmarts because the program teaches students life skills that can be used in their day to day lives as young adults .The program ties right in with what their office is statutorily mandated to do, which is to educate, protect and empower consumers. Gwen’s favorite part of LifeSmarts is the overall experience that the students gain by participating in such a great program as well as being able to interact with such bright and talented youth. Gwen recommends LifeSmarts to any youth group looking for a worthwhile, rewarding and fun activity.
Vanessa Spero is a Regional Specialized 4-H Extension Agent with the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. She has served as co-coordinator with Gwen Worlds since 2017. Florida 4-H supports LifeSmarts because both organizations share similar values on empowering youth. LifeSmarts teaches youth about consumer sciences, an important element to help youth become responsible citizens in their communities, something 4-H strives to achieve. Vanessa’s favorite part of LifeSmarts is engaging youth to become their own advocates on consumer-driven topics.
Theresa Kong Kee
Theresa Kong Kee is an investor Education Specialist with the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Office of the Securities Commissioner. She became the co-coordinator in 2013 and started co-running the program with Gloryana Akapo in 2018. Theresa believes LifeSmarts offers a unique opportunity for students to learn about real consumer and financial topics that will help them now, and in their future. The content, friendships and overall experience can be life-changing for many students! Her favorite part of LifeSmarts at the state level, is seeing the excitement of the students as they give it their all to win and represent Hawaii at the national competition. At the national level, she enjoys seeing the Hawaii team participate and embrace the total experience that NCL provides through the competition and supporting events. After 5 years, she can truly say that the LifeSmarts Program is more than a competition, it’s an excellent opportunity for students to grow and better themselves both academically and personally.
Kansas State Coordinator, Angela Howdeshell serves as the Vice President for Programs & Administration for the Kansas Council for Economic Education and has served as LifeSmarts coordinator for the past 18 years. Angela says that LifeSmarts topics are the things most adults wished they would have learned in school but did not. She believes LifeSmarts’ competitive format is a great way of encouraging many students to work just a little bit harder than they might have while rewarding them for their hard work. Angela loves hearing from previous LifeSmarts students how much they appreciate all the knowledge gained from LifeSmarts. That makes all the work worthwhile! The knowledge gained in LifeSmarts is information every student will see as valuable to their future, regardless of their career choice.
Mary Dyer, President of the Maine Jump$tart Coalition, has served as co-coordinator for the Maine LifeSmarts program since 2012. She and co-coordinator, Debbie Blanchard, facilitate LifeSmarts in schools across Maine. Maine LifeSmarts is run through a statewide partnership with Jump$tart, a national financial literacy program for students and educators. LifeSmarts empowers Maine citizens by instilling critical thinking skills to support Maine Jump$tart’s mission of providing personal financial education to students pre-K through college and adult learners. Mary enjoys the excitement and energy participants bring to LifeSmarts competitions. She believes that the content taught in LifeSmarts gives students critical knowledge and the confidence to lead happy and successful lives!
South Central Service Cooperative
The South Central Service Cooperative serves as the Minnesota State LifeSmarts Coordinator. The organization is represented by Mary Hillman, who has been the MN state coordinator since 2015. LifeSmarts fits well within the Cooperative’s programming of student events and activities. Mary’s favorite things about LifeSmarts are its helpful curriculum for educators and the face-to-face state competition, which she believes is great fun. SCSC works hard to have more participation in the LifeSmarts program and believes the practical, yet fun format is great for all students across the state of Minnesota.
Kyla Capers serves as the Public Information Program Assistant at the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs and has worked with LifeSmarts since July 2018. Kyla supports LifeSmarts because it is a fun, creative way to educate the youth on consumer issues and personal finance. Her favorite part of LifeSmarts is being able to collaborate and interact with other states that share common goals of educating youth on consumer issues that will impact their everyday lives.
Kimberly Edmonds is a Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent with Virginia Cooperative Extension in Henrico County. She co-coordinates the program with Cherry Hedges and began serving in 2012. Kim considers LifeSmarts a natural fit for the Extension because it supports the Extension’s role of providing information, education, and tools that all citizens can use every day to improve their lives in a fun way. The Virginia Credit Union support the Virginia LifeSmarts Program. Kim’s favorite part of LifeSmarts is meeting the teams during the state competition.
Bill started as a volunteer coordinator in 2016 for the District of Columbia LifeSmarts program and has continued to support LifeSmarts for the past two years. Currently working part-time as a project manager for the Anacostia Watershed Society (a local DC environmental group), Bill retired in 2014 after 33 years in managerial roles with IBM. Bill was impressed from the beginning with the breadth, depth and maturity level of the knowledge base offered by NCL through the LifeSmarts program. He enjoys supporting the DC competition and watching our amazing students take on the LifeSmarts challenge.