Varun Kulkarni was a winner in the InvestWrite essay competition.

Taking stock

Winners of Stock Market Game, InvestWrite essay competition share success stories

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8:33 a.m., June 12, 2014--Fourth-grader Mike Young and his classmates earned a profit of over $8,000 along with some valuable lessons about the stock market thanks to the Stock Market Game (SMG), a 10-week simulation administered by the University of Delaware’s Center for Economic Education and Entrepreneurship (CEEE) since 1983.

The winners of the SMG were honored along with their families on Wednesday, June 5, in the Perkins Student Center. Between March 3 and May 9, 1,075 students on 294 teams played the stock market in real time with a hypothetical $100,000.

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“We started off playing as just a fun game and we were only playing for the enjoyment,” said Young. “But then it ended up and we won it. It was fun to win and we learned a lot about the stocks, but I’m just proud of my team and how good we did.” 

Young and his teammates Christian Garrett, Kevin Lundin, Miguel Marcial-Gutierrez, Ray Khan and Elijah Malgiero from Jennie Smith Elementary School were the winners of the elementary school division. Under the guidance of teacher Barbara Frank, the team was able to increase their initial investment of $100,000 to $108,189.

The team purchased stocks like Apple, CVS and Nadal Chemical Company, which they had seen on television.

“Next year we might as well group up again since we did so well this year,” said Marcial-Guiterrez, who added that the boys’ interest in finance will continue. “Over the summer we will keep our eye on the stock market.”

“We are excited to play again next year,” said Khan. “We hope that we win again.” 

In the middle school division, Bruce Rodriguez and DeAirhius Tiller from Kirk Middle School worked with teacher Gail Morris to grow their $100,000 to $105,489. 

Morris said this year’s competition was made even more accessible to students due to a generous grant from the Investor Protection Unit of the Delaware Department of Justice that lowered team fees.

“I usually pay for it out of pocket,” said Morris of the fees. This year the price per team was lowered to $5, making it less expensive to sign up additional teams of students. 

“For five dollars I said, ‘Let’s do this,’” said Morris, and so she signed up eight teams to play in the SMG. Morris’ own investment turned out to be a very wise one. 

“We had six place in the top 10,” said Morris of her teams, adding that the program helps students to “be more financially sound all the way around.” 

Just be patient, let it grow and give it time was the advice Morris said she most frequently gave her students, who took the guidance seriously, with noticeable results.

Winning stock market strategies

“Our main strategy was to buy as early as possible and watch our profits grow,” said Rodriguez. “Since we’re middle school students, all of us have Apple products, even an iPhone or iPod. We figured buying Apple stock would be a sure hit so we bought Apple early and just watched it for a few weeks.”

“It’s fun, so other people should try it and they could learn from it,” said Rodriguez of the SMG. Rodriguez’s teammate agreed.

“It gave me a chance to figure out how much money companies made,” said Tiller, who was eager to share the credit for his team’s success with his classmates. “We have a lot of smart kids in our class. I love working with my fellow students.”

“I made up a list of my own companies in my head to start with,” said Tiller. The list contained familiar companies like Apple, Polo, Nike and Puma. But Tiller, like many winners of the SMG, began reading financial publications in order to learn about these and other stocks.

“One of our main resources was the comment section of USA Today,” said Tiller. “In that part of the paper they showed companies that were growing rapidly and those that were rapidly declining.” 

The high school division winners were Sam Miller, Ava Cruz, Susan Biscardi, Nina Lego and Abby Blauvelt from Cab Calloway School of the Arts, led by teacher Chris Clarke.

“This team grew their initial $100,000 to a whopping $117,900,” said Marion Jacobs, CEEE staff member and SMG coordinator. “How about telling us how you did it? And we’re all taking notes, by the way.” 

Biscardi explained to the audience that she and her group used a strategy tailored specifically to the format of the SMG.

“Basically, we knew we had a short amount of time to make the most money,” said Biscardi. “So we looked for stocks that were relatively small cap and that were really volatile. That way, we could increase a lot in a short amount of time. We found one that was pretty cheap so that we could invest in a lot of shares, and any time it went up, it would go up a great amount.”

Biscardi and her team, with research, was able to find stocks that most of the audience had not heard of before.

“The company was called NTLS, a small phone company located in Georgia,” said Biscardi. “And we invested in another one called Tuesday.”

The winners of the Boys and Girls Club middle school division, Mykahl Horsey, Allie Nowotny and Jossalynn Elliott, from Laurel Boys and Girls Club under coach Brian Daisey, grew their original $100,000 to $105,269. They were unable to attend the event. 

InvestWrite winners

As part of the InvestWrite essay competition, each student who participates in the SMG may submit an essay demonstrating their understanding of the stock market and investment strategies. This year’s winner in the elementary school division was Varun Kulkarni from North Star Elementary, taught by Tammy Burgos. Kulkarni’s essay examined the future of investment in the world of video games.

“After researching GameStop, I think this company will be a good long term investment because the demand for video games and smartphones is increasing,” said Kulkarni. “The range of video games has increased greatly since newer and less expensive products such as a variety of smartphones, tablets and gaming hardware are becoming commonly available.” 

The InvestWrite high school winner was Jack Harkins from Cab Calloway School of the Arts, taught by Clarke. His essay focused on the cable television industry as a representation of recent economic trends.

“Throughout the past decade alone the industry has seen countless mergers between different cable companies across the United States,” said Harkins. “And not all mergers have occurred between stable, established companies with large growth potential.”

Owen Lefkon, director of the Investor Protection Unit of the Delaware Department of Justice, presented students with trophies and certificates and spoke with students and their families after the ceremony. 

“I think we have some future Wall Street analysts among us,” said Lefkon of the winners. “You made some money but hopefully more importantly you learned a little bit about investing. Full disclosure: I participated in the SMG when I was in sixth grade. I lost money. But I think back then I learned some good lessons, too.” 

Lefkon also offered these words of advice, reminding students to always research stocks before buying them: “When you’re investing, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”

Article by Sunny Rosen

Photos by Evan Krape

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