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Students beat Wall Street

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By CYRUS LEVESQUE

MIDDLEBURY — Extra credit in schools normally comes in the form of a few more grade points. But for Shelby Laframboise of Middlebury and Kayla Whittemore of Whiting, both eighth-graders at Middlebury Union Middle School, extra credit in one class came in the form of a $50 U.S. savings bond from the Vermont Council on Economic Education (VCEE).

Laframboise and Whittemore, both 14, posted the highest return on investment in the statewide Vermont Stock Market Game, in which 141 teams of middle schoolers used fictitious money to trade real stocks. The online simulation, sponsored by VCEE, is aimed at educating Vermont students about personal finance and the stock market.

The duo realized a 14 percent increase in their capital in 10 weeks of trading stocks listed on the New York Stock Exchange. For comparison, the Standard and Poor 500 Index was up 2.9 percent over the 10-week period of the game, which wrapped up last week.

Their peers have been impressed.

“Everyone’s asking us for advice,” Whittemore said.

One of their better decisions was to buy a stock that mirrored the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

Whittemore and Laframboise’ math teacher, Derek Bartlett, got his class interested in the game. “It was kind of hands-on for them, to explore and do research on their own,” he said.

Bartlett mostly left the teams to themselves after getting them set up, but occasionally he had a little advice for them. “Sometimes we’d take the paper out and say, ‘Hey, look at this company today, it’s up $4, you might want to check it out and research it,’” he said.

Each team was given an account with $100,000 on a Web site run by the VCEE. Laframboise and Whittemore fell behind at first. After a couple weeks, they checked their rank and saw they were in 94th place, Laframboise said.

But as their methods paid off, the team pulled ahead quickly. They were in one of the top few spots by the fifth week of the game. Laframboise and Whittemore ended the game with $113,987.

They started out investing in only four stocks, but expanded to a few more once those stocks were doing well. Through the whole game they never sold anything, Laframboise said, just diversified their profile once they found stocks they liked.

Sometimes what they didn’t do was more important than what they did. According to Whittemore, they avoided the common mistake of “buying on margin”, a practice of buying shares with borrowed money and using the shares themselves as collateral. “A lot of people made mistakes by spending more than they had,” Whittemore said.

But their process was mostly just a matter of diligence and patience, according to Laframboise. “We looked at the newspapers to see what was going up and get ideas about where to invest,” she said. “Sometimes we didn’t do anything.”

Will they continue to follow the stock market and invest now that the game is over? Well, probably not. The girls are still just 14.

But they are thinking about the future. They both said their parents are encouraging them to go to college. And now, their savings account probably got $50 bigger.

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