On November 5, on the eve of the presidential election, 100 12-graders played and discussed Budget Hero: Election Edition. Some of these students—who came together from the Capitol Hill and Parkside campuses of the Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy—would be first-time voters the next day; dozens of those not old enough to vote said they would volunteer at the polls on election day.

After playing the game in teams, John Milewski, managing editor and moderator of the weekly TV program, "Dialogue at the Wilson Center," led a discussion about the students’ results, impressions, and lessons learned. One student commented she previously had no interest in budgets but that she could not tear herself away from this game.

Several students reported their groups completed earning the values badges, such as Safety Net or Efficient Government, accomplished by finding all policies related to that badge. In fact, one group completed three badges in 30 minutes, a rare feat. Another group successfully completed one badge and improved the debt-to-GDP-ratio to the best possible point.  One team boasted they kept their federal budget from going bust until 2041.

A student survey circulated after the event revealed that 100 percent of the students found the session worthwhile; 94% of the students recommended holding this event for next year’s seniors.

“Our students were challenged to think critically,” Chavez curriculum coordinator Juliet Mohnkern wrote in an e-mail later that day. “They saw both the complexity of the issue as well as their ability to craft solutions to a very real world problem. It was a very valuable experience.”