/  The LifeSmarts Team

The LifeSmarts Team

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 26 years — first as a State Coordinator, and for the past 20 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 in its 27 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.  
  • Elena Robertson, Development Associate
    • Elena joined the National Consumers League in April 2020 as the Development Associate focused on the LifeSmarts Program. She works alongside the Director for Development and the LifeSmarts Team to provide fundraising support. Elena has been working in non-profit administration for five years, previously lending her fundraising talents to the Shakespeare Theatre Company, National Public Radio, and the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. 
  • Adrienne Archer, Office Manager
    • Adrienne joined LifeSmarts in 2021 and works to support all aspects of the program. Previously Adrienne served as Executive Assistant to NCL’s Executive Director Sally Greenberg.

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.

Karen Ellington is the Assistant Principal at San Luis High School in California. Karen became involved in LifeSmarts as a coach for teams from her high school and took teams to the LifeSmarts National Competition for several years. As a coach, she has seen how LifeSmarts can directly impact students’ lives. They learn so much more in LifeSmarts that can immediately translate into their world than they do in any academic class. The best part about LifeSmarts for Karen is always the in-person competitions and the interactions between the students. Even though they are in a competition, they are making friends and supporting one another.

Jordan Sveen is a FCCLA State Adviser and an Assistant Family and Consumer Science Program Director in the state of Colorado. Jordan’s state office provides the curriculum and program support for Career and Technical Education and encourages their programs to participate in LifeSmarts. Her favorite part of LifeSmarts is providing opportunities that validate the importance of FCS curriculum and education.ng and fun activity.

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.

George Horn is a retired teacher and LifeSmarts coach who now serves as the volunteer LifeSmarts State Coordinator in the state of Delaware.

Geralyn Sachs is a 4-H Youth Development Extension Agent at St. John’s County Cooperative Extension, St. Augustine, Florida. Geralyn supports LifeSmarts because it provides creative and motivating learning opportunities that cover a wide range of subject matter that benefit the financial literacy development of our youth. Her favorite part of LifeSmarts is that it is free and accessible to anyone with internet access. I feel that it is appealing to a variety of youth because it encompasses a wide range of topics.  She is excited to work with the Florida LifeSmarts coaches as they prepare and support their teams with this financially focused learning opportunity.

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 Geralyn Sachs. 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.

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 continued growth and program success.

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 served as 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.

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.

Donna Taylor serves as the Iowa FCCLA Executive Director.  Previosly, she served as the Supervisor, Family Consumer Science and Human Services and MO FCCLA State Advisor in Missouri for several years. Donna supports LifeSmarts because it is a great program for students. It encourages students to learn information and knowledge that they will use for the rest of their lives. Donna’s favorite part of LifeSmarts is it is real world knowledge for students. I also like the competition aspect and am constantly amazed at how much information these students know.

Chuck Samper is an Extension Special Projects Coordinator, Kentucky 4-H Youth Development, he has been a LifeSmarts State Coordinator for 3 years. 4-H is a youth organization committed to building outstanding leaders with marketable skills to succeed in today’s global society.    4-H empowers youth to reach their full potential, working and learning in partnership with caring adults. The four H’s represent the idea of Head, Heart, Hands, and Health.  These are the values members work on through fun and engaging programs.  4- H supports LifeSmarts because it believes in providing positive development experiences that all youth to experience belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity. 4-H Youth Development is part of Kentucky Cooperative Extension.  Extension’s mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of Kentucky citizens through non-formal education for the entire family.  Extension agents and volunteers take the results of university research and explain it in such a way that different age groups can learn and apply the information to their own lives. Chuck’s favorite part of LifeSmarts is the State Event. 4-H hopes to increase participation in the Kentucky program this year.

The Kansas Council for Economic Education is a longtime supporter of the LifeSmarts Program. The Council believes that LifeSmarts topics are the things most adults wished they would have learned in school but did not.  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. The Council 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.

Amanda Larkins is the Outreach Manager at the Office of the Attorney General Jeff Landry of Louisiana. The Louisiana Department of Justice has supported LifeSmarts since 2013, and I have been coordinating the program for the past four years. Attorney General Jeff Landry strongly encourages Louisiana high school students to participate in the LifeSmarts program to strengthen their consumer knowledge and build solid skills for the future. Amanda’s favorite part about LifeSmarts is watching the students engage, learn, and compete.

Alva is President/CEO of A&A Athletic Consulting. LLC in the state of Maryland. Professionally Alva’s experience has afforded her 26 years in management and program development.  She has served 25+ years in the health industry as a health educator, emergency medical technician, and community health consultant providing emergency response training, community education on chronic diseases, and direct service provider in adolescent drug treatment and case management.  Alva also served  20+ years in the sports industry as a coach, an official, event staff, and 15 years in athletic administration. Alva supports LifeSmarts because it creates the ability for students to apply learning to life and feel that it is critical to building self-sufficient young adults.  Life Smart provides the connection to situational life skills. Her favorite part of LifeSmarts is the daily quizzes.

The South Central Service Cooperative serves as the Minnesota State LifeSmarts Coordinator. The organization is represented by Mary Hillmann, the Academic Program Administrator at South Central Service Cooperative, 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.

Linda grew up on a farm in Missouri with her identical twin and brother. Linda is former Family and Consumer Science teacher. Little did she know she would find the FACS classroom was her calling, and that life had been teaching her exactly what was needed to provide students with the tools they need for life.  Linda is a former LifeSmarts Coach of the Year who was able to teach students practical life skills and take them on adventures of a life time through LifeSmarts, attending National Competitions five years in a row. Linda has been lucky enough to find a career that includes her hobbies of cooking, sewing, and being a mom. She lives each day by her most repeated motto, happiness is a choice.

Chelsey Green is the Human Sciences and Education Career Field Specialist and Nebraska FCCLA State Adviser at the Nebraska Department of Education. Nebraska FCCLA is excited to support LifeSmarts  as a way for members and students to apply the knowledge they are learning in Career and Technical Education classes and be recognized  their achievements. The educational materials that are available to teachers through LifeSmarts are also great benefits to working with the organization. The opportunity for LifeSmarts to be seamlessly integrated into various CTE classrooms is an exciting opportunity for educators across Nebraska. Chelsey looks forward to seeing their students find success through this program. Chesley is also excited to see students put their knowledge to the test and gain recognition for their efforts.

Gayle Murdock is currently the Advisor Mentor for the New Mexico Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA). She taught Family and Consumer Science for 41 Years in Texas. She served as a LifeSmarts Coach for 12 years and was the LifeSmarts Coach of the Year in 2014. Her favorite part of LifeSmarts was watching student excel through their involvement in the program. This year she is enjoying introducing New Mexico teachers to the many resources available through LifeSmarts.

Crystal is the Consumer Fraud Investigator in the Consumer Protection and Antitrust Division at the Office of the Attorney General in North Dakota. The entity enjoys giving high school students an opportunity to show off their LifeSmarts knowledge in a fun and competitive way!  These students continue to impress us year after year with the amount of interest, preparation, and dedication they have in the LifeSmarts Program.

Cathy Allen serves as Associate Extension Specialist with Oklahoma State University, where she is responsible for coordinating 4-H curriculum and Healthy Living programming. Cathy is excited to be coordinating LifeSmarts and introducing the program to Oklahoma youth  Oklahoma 4-H is excited to be a part of LifeSmarts because they feel it aligns perfectly with the 4-H mission of developing skills for life.

Jeremy Cheney served as a longtime coach in the state of Georgia before relocating to the state of Tennessee.  He coached several state winning teams and was named National LifeSmarts Coach of the Year.

Melissa Issacs serves as the State Advisor for Texas FCCLA. Texas FCCLA supports LifeSmarts as it correlates to the family and consumer sciences curriculum, offering students and members the opportunity to practice and refine skills learned through a competitive outlet. Educators can utilize the program to enhance their student’s classroom experience with the relevant content that is encompassed through LifeSmarts. As a companion program to the FCCLA Knowledge Bowl, LifeSmarts offers further opportunities for members and students as well as all students in the great state of Texas! 

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.

Sonya Haught is a Technology Integration Specialist at Ritchie County Schools and also a FBLA Advisory. She supports LifeSmarts because it is a program that teachers students about the basics of being an adult and making good financial and personal decisions.  Sonya says her favorite part of LifeSmarts is going to Nationals and meeting students from all around the country.

Kay Johnson is a Retired Educator and Wisconsin State LifeSmarts Coordinator. Kay supports LifeSmarts because the program embodies the important information needed for daily, personal living which is often left out of an individual’s formal educational journey. It is a program that makes the learning of that information memorable and fun. She expressed that her favorite part of LifeSmarts is meeting students in Wisconsin, and also, nationally at the National Competition. These young people are intelligent, enthusiastic, and just full of life!

Tammy McCarthy is a Retired Educator and a Wisconsin State LifeSmarts Coordinator  assisted by Kay Johnson who is also a Wisconsin LifeSmarts Coordinator. Tammy supports LifeSmarts because she believes that the information learned and the skills gained will help all participants be better consumers wherever their path takes them.  Her favorite part of LifeSmarts is the face-to face competitions.