Two of our staffers, Todd Leveen and Desirae Outcalt, had the honor of serving on the planning committee for Junior Achievement of Arizona’s recent Stock Market Challenge. Todd, who serves on JA of Arizona’s board of directors, also served as emcee for the Challenge and sponsored the participants from Hamilton High School. Desirae along with Nathaniel Spatz, Lisa Friedman and Jeremy King also volunteered at the Challenge. The Biltmore Bank of Arizona supported the event with a sponsorship.
Approximately 400 high school students from various schools throughout the state worked in teams to compete. Their objective was to accumulate the highest possible net worth in their simulated investment portfolio. Junior Achievement designed the Stock Market Challenge to teach kids across broad range of income levels “what it’s like to build a portfolio, manage risk, and experience its performance in a compressed period of time.”
Over the course of a morning, students become traders. Every 90 seconds represents a trading day for a total of 60 days of trading. The winning team has the greatest percentage of growth in its portfolio.
During the morning, Nathaniel ran stock tips on the floor, while Todd introduced people, monitored the activities, tallied the scores, interviewed the kids and provided ongoing commentary. The room felt like an actual trading floor, with a constant stream of company news coming at the teams and people yelling trade orders back and forth.
Real world company names were changed, but the company profiles and corresponding breaking news were intact. A simulator ran a randomized algorithm that processed information inputted and then moved stock prices accordingly. Breaking news and trading volume affected the stock market performance.
JA Stock Market Challenge provides real world investment experience kids don’t often receive in school. Before the challenge day, the students participated in JA Take Stock in Your Future, where they “learned about individual equities, the impact of the economy, geo-political events, and market sentiment.” From this experience, they learned about the fundamentals behind the stock market and the concept of trading to prepare them for the day of the Challenge.
“On the day of the challenge, some of the kids got heavily tied to certain companies, so you could hear groans when bad news got released,” said Todd. “I enjoyed seeing them get emotionally involved and having some tell me, ‘I had no idea….’ I know they were acquiring real life skills they can use forever.”
As part of our sponsorship, we invited some of our clients and friends to partake in the adult Stock Market Challenge. After the event for the high schoolers concluded, the volunteers and other guests got to try their hand managing stock portfolios using the same simulation program. Key sponsors even had their companies included in the stock trade simulation. Desirae, Lisa and Jeremy joined our gang for this portion of the event, and Desirae had recruited sponsors and silent auction items for the adult Challenge.
Through sponsorships from many committed companies, Junior Achievement of Arizona was able to raise $149,000 for Stock Market Challenge. Low- to moderate-income students rely on the money raised by Junior Achievement to pay for their participation in the contest.
“I’m so proud that we have great support from our company for Junior Achievement,” said Todd. “Our president, Rich Endicott, as well as Darlene Esquerra and everyone else at our parent bank, Grandpoint Bank, have made their enthusiasm for this nonprofit organization very clear.”
Our bank, as well as Grandpoint Bank and its other divisions, has volunteered and sponsored Stock Market Challenge as well as other Junior Achievement financial literacy events like You’re Hired and BizTown.
“The students served by Junior Achievement are the people who will take care of us in the next 15 years,” said Todd. “We’ll be placing our retirement in their hands. Junior Achievement takes away the entitlement and teaches students what they can earn if they work hard.”
To find out more about how you can volunteer with Junior Achievement, visit their website at
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