SCMS students tackle Capitol Hill Challenge
by Cheree Dye
Jul 05, 2014 | 1141 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A team of South Central Middle School seventh-grade students won third place in the Capitol Hill Challenge, a national stock market game, under the direction of teacher Jason Kornegay. The 14-week game allowed students to manage a $100,000 portfolio of stocks, bonds and mutual funds. Students from middle and high schools in all 50 states competed in teams of three to five people. At the completion of the game, the top 10 teams were invited to Washington, D.C., to meet congressional leaders and give a presentation regarding their portfolio. The team members, Danielle Zhanje, Rebeca Hernandez, Julie Mazariegos and Milly Cantu, were responsible for making the decisions on when to buy and sell.

Kornegay said, “My primary role was as an advisor to help them make decisions to buy, sell, etc. I presented them with various scenarios and offered advice but the final decision on what to do was always made by the students. For instance, one of their stocks shot up nearly $10 per share in one day yielding them nearly $80,000. However, the next day it went down $2 per share, and they had to make a decision about whether to sell to lock in their earnings or risk it going back down. I presented them with scenarios but they ultimately made the decision to sell earning $67,000 in the process and ultimately locking them into the top 10.

“This is our first time participating in this contest. Teachers apply early to enter the contest and if chosen are paired with a member of Congress for their area. We were paired with Sen. [Saxby] Chambliss. Each teacher can have a max of 10 teams, whereas there is no limit to the number of teams a teacher can have in the Georgia Stock Market Game. Over 4,200 teams participated nationwide, the majority of them high schools, so it was pretty amazing that a team of middle school students placed third.”

The team prepared for the challenge by participating in the Georgia version of the Stock Market Game in the fall, and used Yahoo Finance as a resource in terms of identifying potential stocks to buy. Zhanje said, “We were looking to buy stocks that had potential for growth. Yahoo Finance has analysts who rank stocks from one to five, where one means it’s a strong buy and five means it’s a strong sell.”

Kornegay, who majored in finance, is passionate when it comes to teaching children about financial responsibility and investing.

“We have been playing the Georgia Stock Market Game since 2009 with four second-place teams and one first-place team during that span,” he said. “We have been recognized by [State Superintendent] Dr. John Barge several years in a row at the end of year Stock Market Game luncheon, and we were also featured on Good Day Atlanta for our Stock Market success in 2013. In addition, many other teachers in the building are now participating and teams from South Central are gaining a reputation statewide for our success. This was our first time participating in the Capitol Hill Challenge.

“There is always some luck involved in making money in the short term in the stock market, but I primarily attribute our success to the girls putting themselves in a position to be successful. They analyzed stock data through Yahoo Finance and ultimately made their best, informed guess for which stocks they believed had the potential to go up.”

The students, who competed against high schools teams across the country, met senators and congressional leaders while in Washington, D.C.

“The Washington, D.C., experience was truly amazing,” Kornegay said. “We were invited to Congressman Gingrey’s office the day we arrived, and met a number of other Congressman at the awards banquet on Capitol Hill where the girls had to get up and deliver a presentation on their experience. The highlights for me included meeting Sens. John McCain and Saxby Chambliss in the Russell Senate building, and receiving a private tour of the Capitol by a former congressman who was able to take us out on John Boehner’s private balcony.”

Zhanje, who wants to pursue a career in marine biology, said, “It was unreal meeting the congressional leaders. You hear about them on the news and see their names on bumper stickers, but it's amazing seeing them up close, talking to them and posing for pictures with them.”