By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Reporter
KANSAS CITY – They’re not your Uncle Fred and Aunt Ethel’s stockbrokers. Six eighth graders at Visitation School, with some computer savvy, an interest in current events and a sense of what they liked and what they didn’t, took first place in Missouri in the Stock Market Game. They also have a social studies teacher who encouraged them to think about what they learned and didn’t dissuade his students from occasionally going with gut feelings.
The Stock Market Game was introduced in 1977, and since then more than 10 million students have participated. The online game challenges students in elementary and high school to research stocks and markets and put together a portfolio whose value increases over and above an initial (virtual) $100,000 investment. Teams trade common stocks and mutual funds from the NYSE, Nasdaq and AMEX exchanges, earn interest on cash balances, pay interest if they buy stock on margin and pay commissions on all their trades. More than 700,000 students world wide participated this year, including 742 teams in Missouri. The winning portfolio amassed the highest value by the New York Stock Exchange’s closing bell April 8.
The Visitation team, Will Ridge, Carsen Pace, Keegan McRoberts, Catherine Whitmer, Knox Plute and Kathleen Schrader, first heard about the Stock Market Game from their social studies teacher, David Camerlinck, who learned of it through Visitation principal Vince Cascone.
Will said that when he first heard about the game, he was “intrigued by the realism of it. It prepared us for what we’re going to do in the future: make money for our families’ future. I’m the youngest of my brothers and sisters, but I have a lot of responsibilities as an eighth grader. This was something we could do as a team or by ourselves.”
Camerlinck said the team discussed their interests and that helped them assemble a diverse portfolio. The game “stops you, right at the beginning, from investing in anything dealing with alcohol or questionable stocks,” so social responsibility in investing was not an issue. The kids worked together as a team and everybody had a say in the companies they chose to invest in.
Will said that most of the companies the team selected were “companies we saw in ads and liked. We researched them before we invested any money.”
Catherine Whitmer added, “The game had a graph that showed us the ups and downs in the market over the quarter.”
“We liked Ford originally,” Will said, “but we learned that Ford was losing money, so we sold that stock.”
Keegan said, “We were in last place and Ford was losing money. Not good.”
“We sold the Ford stock,” Will said, “and reinvested in Whole Foods.”
Keegan nodded. “Much better.”
The team’s portfolio included The Gap, Whole Foods, Coca Cola, HerbaLife and a fuel company. Their research had shown that The Gap had a high quarter and Coca Cola was a block buster during the NCAA tournament, so that one was a slam dunk.
During the 10-week game period, the team learned how political factors and current world events influence the stock markets. Camerlinck said his students learned that when things went bad, changes should be made quickly. They also discovered how current events affected the stock market, such as the earthquake, tsunami and radiation scares in Japan, the U.S. political picture at the beginning of the year, and the rebellion and unrest in the Middle East, particularly Libya.
Will said, “Yeah, what’s going on in Libya affected gas prices all over the world, even here.”
Midway through the game, the team was floundering a bit. Some of the stocks weren’t doing as well as the kids thought they would. A Visitation school parent, John Mateski, came and talked to the team about stocks and investing from a business point of view.
The team started thinking a bit differently, began tweaking some of their investments, increasing some amounts and decreasing others.
After the closing bell sounded at the NYSE on April 8, the Visitation team learned they had come in first in the state – their portfolio was valued at $110,914.24, just $78.80 more than the second place team. That’s an 11 percent return on their investments in just 10 weeks.
A second team from Visitation School took second place out of 18 teams in the regional contest.
The first place team was to attend a dinner and awards ceremony on April 21.
Will said he is beginning to consider the possibility of choosing investment as a career.
Camerlinck had a suggestion. “Who will keep a good eye on stocks in the future? Maybe those who played the stock market game in grade and high school.”