Call them the Wolf Pups of Wall Street.
Ten of the 28 West Lowndes elementary and middle school students who participated in the Stock Market Game this spring captured regional or state prizes in a competition sponsored by the Mississippi Council of Education. Almost 4,000 students entered the competition statewide.
The students, in grades 4-8, are all enrolled in Victoria DeOrnellis’ gifted class, and while the students managed hundreds of thousands of make-believe dollars, they took home a combined $750 in actual money.
West Lowndes’ middle school team swept the regional, claiming the top three places out of a field of 33 teams in the 17-county region. West Lowndes also took first place in the elementary school competition while one student, fifth-grader Kaley Cox, won the state’s top prize in a related essay competition.
DeOrnellis could not be prouder.
“What’s so funny is that, especially for the little ones, they had never even heard the term ‘stock market,'” she said. “I asked them, ‘What do you think a stock market is?’ One of my fourth graders said, ‘It is a place where you buy groceries?'”
Suffice to say, the students turned out to be quick studies.
Under the program, each team of two or three students was provided $100,000 to invest in stocks, bonds or mutual funds. Prizes were awarded based on the teams’ performance against the S&P 500.
“They had to do research every week with their teammates,” DeOrnellis said. “They weren’t allowed to just go in and make whatever decision they wanted. They had to research what they wanted to do and then make choices. We went to [email protected] and used a forecast tool to learn about that and see what the experts had to say about the stocks. They went to thestreet.com and had to come up with three headlines each week about stories that could affect the market. When President Trump talked about Amazon and Jeff Bezos, the stock went way down so we had to talk about that, what’s going on there.”
Team Breadwinner (Damian Brooks, Kenya Peoples and Lamber Williams) took home first place in the regional middle school division by outperforming the S&P 500 by an impressive 11.35 percent.
Magnificent McKylans (McKaylah Deloach and Kylan Jordan) finished second and Blue Lemon Fandoms (Frederica Hargrove and Aniyah Henley) finished third.
Tic Tac Toe WHCA (Jendiya Harkins and Jay Sanders) claimed first in the region in the elementary school division.
At first students gravitated toward stocks and companies they were familiar with.
“But as they learned to do research, they began to branch out a little more,” DeOrnellis said.
Although Cox’s team didn’t place in the Stock Market Game, she did manage to take top honors in the Investwrite competition.
In that competition, students picked a group and wrote an essay about how they would manage and invest their money. Ironically, Cox was not one of DeOrnellis’ most enthusiastic students.
“It’s funny,” she said. “Kaley is not a fan of the stock market game. It’s one of the least favorite things we’ve ever done. But she can perform. I told her, ‘You’re not going to love everything you learn, but you’ve got to put the effort into it.'”
That work paid off, much to Cox’s surprise.
“I thought it was a good essay, but not that good,” she said. “I was surprised.”
DeOrnellis said that while winning prizes is nice, the real benefit of the competition was exposing her students to finances.
“I’m not a big financial person,” DeOrnellis said. “In fact, I grew up making a lot of mistakes when I first got out of college. When I got into teaching, one thing I really wanted my kids to know is how not to make the mistakes I made.”
As the teacher, DeOrnellis was supposed to have received $125 for the teams that placed in the competition.
“I just gave it to the kids and they split it,” she said. “Maybe they’ll invest it.”