Friday, June 16, 2017

A team of fifth-graders from Jordan Small Middle School heads to Washington DC by Elizabeth Richards

Five fifth-graders, and their teacher, will receive the red carpet treatment in Washington DC next week. They will be recognized at an awards assembly on Capitol Hill for finishing eighth in the country in the SIFMA Foundation’s 14th Annual Stock Market Game- Capitol Hill Challenge (CHC). 
The Capitol Hill Challenge is one element of the SIFMA Foundation’s Stock Market Game, a curriculum-based program where student teams, in grades 4-12, learn about the global marketplace, long-term saving and investing fundamentals by using a hypothetical brokerage account. 

A SIFMA press release described the program as follows: “This 14-week challenge organizes teams of middle and high school students by congressional district and state and teaches the importance of saving and investing, while simultaneously promoting a better understanding of our government. Teams invest a hypothetical $100,000 in listed stocks, bonds, and mutual funds and learn the value of the capital markets as they work together to maximize the return of their portfolios.”

Jordan Small Middle School (JSMS) teacher Jack Fitch has led students in the challenge since it began in 2004. Before now, the school’s best team landed in fourteenth place, narrowly missing the top ten and a trip to Washington DC. “This year, this group of boys got together and they played the game great,” he said. “It’s a down market over the last three months, and they outperformed the market with their stock choices.” The JSMS team is the only team from New England and the only middle school team to make the top ten. 

In previous years, only two teams from Maine have made it to Washington DC. Fitch said their team has talked with Jim Ford from the SIFMA Foundation, who was the coach for the Oak Hill teams who made it to the top ten. He has filled them in on what to expect – and that is the “red carpet treatment,” Fitch said. While they won’t have their full itinerary until they reach Washington DC, they know they will meet Chellie Pingree, who was their congressional partner for the game, on the first day. They hope to also meet Angus King while they are there. The awards ceremony is on the afternoon of June 21.

At the ceremony, the boys will be able to hear ideas from other teams and share their own ideas. While only the top three teams speak at the luncheon, the JSMS team will be interviewed several times over the course of the three days. 

The JSMS team is made up of Lucas Oldershaw, Brian Mank, Brandon Mank, Jacob Goslant, and Noah Mains. The boys formed their own team after participating in other stock market games throughout the year. Oldershaw said that he came in first in the year-long game, and Mains came in first in the fall. “We wanted to put this team together because we were all doing really good in our other ones,” he said. three-month CHC began in February. Fitch said the boys worked well as a team, researching and discussing possible stocks to buy or sell. Oldershaw handled the actual buying and selling in the game. Fitch said the team studied their stocks’ 52-week highs and lows, tried to buy low and sell high, and sometimes picked stocks he would not have chosen. “It’s a three-month game, and so they don’t diversify a portfolio a lot. They put a lot of shares into one stock, and if a stock goes up they make a lot of money.”  

The boys said they didn’t argue much while making decisions, but that didn’t mean there were no challenges in the process. One of those challenges was when they lost money. Brian Mank said, “That was a real difficulty. Sometimes, the stocks just slipped right under our nose.”  

Another challenge, according to Brandon Mank, was getting the whole group to decide whether to buy or sell a stock. Mains said that to make decisions, the group got together to talk about things.    “If three of us wanted it, we would do it,” added Oldershaw.

Fitch said the first 15 minutes of each math class were spent on the challenge. As the end of the challenge drew near, and they saw themselves rising in the standings, the anticipation built and they spent more time monitoring their stocks. Fitch said that three days before the challenge was over, the boys made $7,000 in one day, which put them in the top ten.

When asked what they were most looking forward to as they made the trip, the boys showed enthusiasm for the food, the plane ride, the limousine, and seeing the White House. “I’m looking forward to meeting all of Maine’s representatives and maybe, hopefully, the President,” said Brian Mank.

Goslant echoed his thoughts. “I’m looking forward to the food, going to the White House, and I’m hopeful I can see the president,” he said.

Brandon Mank said he thinks the trip will be a blast. “It’s going to be really exciting because we’re the first fifth-grade and the first people from Jordan Small Middle School to go,” he said. None of the boys have been to Washington DC before.

When asked how it felt to be the number eighth team in the country, Brian Mank said, “Being in eighth is a real honor, I never thought we would make it this far.”

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