HAWLEY - Five local school districts participated this year in the Stock Market Challenge, an educational experience designed to promote financial literacy in a new generation of students hoping to be better prepared to embark on their destined life paths.

Stock Market Challenge is a program of the Pennsylvania Council on Financial Literacy (PennCFL) and was sponsored in 2018 by The Dime Bank and the four newspaper-group of The Wayne Independent, The News Eagle, The Carbondale News and The Villager.

At the awards ceremony luncheon held at the Boiler Room in the Hawley Silk Mill, May 11, PennCFL President Alan W. Dakey said that everyone is a winner in the competition if they learned something.

School districts participating included Wayne Highlands; Western Wayne; Wallenpaupack; Delaware Valley; Carbondale and Forest City. Note: Forest City’s student team was unavailable for the awards ceremony.

High school or middle school students took part in the 10-week competition in which school teams worked on simulating stock market portfolios.

Top teams

The top school teams, with their total hypothetical equity and team teachers were:

HIGH SCHOOL

$103,155.29, Wayne Highlands, Barbara Lutat
$102,135.07, Carbondale, Licia Olivetti
$101,692,22, Wallenpaupack, Colleen Connors.

MIDDLE SCHOOL

$104,784.28, Forest City, Lizette Kozar
$103,546.77, Western Wayne, Thomas Lodini
$103,230.07, Wallenpaupack, Argyro Paspalas.

Delaware Valley School District competed for the first time and also include elementary students who are a part of a school club. Chris, a DV 5th grader from Shohola, said that he really enjoyed the experience. Club members gave out thank you notes to the PennCFL representatives and Stock Market Challenge sponsors.

Wallenpaupack Middle Area School 7th grader, Andrew, commented, “I really liked Stock Market Challenge because I think it was good I learned how it works on my own. I researched a lot of things, and I want to thank you for setting this up.”

James Kane, Principal at Wallenpaupack Area High School, comments, “Our students were able top gain experience from this project that they would not have had the opportunity elsewhere.”

Lessons reviewed

Dakey is a Wayne County native and local graduate, who became a banker with The Dime Bank. He commented that he became a life-long investor but wished he had the benefit of the Stock Market Challenge program when he was in school, which may have helped him to avoid some mistakes.

Gary Bellman, President of The Dime Bank, spoke about their bank’s commitment to promoting financial literacy. He said that whether a student goes on to college, military, a trade as well as starting a family, one learns early the need to understand finances. Three directors of The Dime Bank board sit on the Wayne Highlands School Board, and are active speaking at all the local school districts about banking and investing.

Michelle Fleece, publisher of the sponsoring newspapers, said that part of her role is budget and finance. She spoke about how their newspaper company, under New Media Investment is traded on the New York Stock Exchange. She also spoke on the advantages of local newspapers, run by local people and shedding a light on the local community to enable the residents to live life more fully.

Two financial advisors from The Dime Bank, James J. Gardas and Jeremy J. Patten, reviewed several points brought out over the exercise the student teams competed.

The students were taught about the reasons for learning how to invest and how it can help them through life. They learned the differences between stocks, bonds, mutual funds and ETFs. In their simulation they leaned to buy and sell and see how their investments fluctuate with the market conditions.

One student remarked how the market was going up when he started, but as the game went along, it went down. The point was made that this was more realistic and was a lesson in how challenging it can be to play the stock market.

The students were reminded of the excellent returns that investing can bring and the importance of beginning early with an eye to retirement, and how it can help at various stages in life. Also discussed was the importance of diversity in building a portfolio of investments.

Although a person can invest without consulting a financial advisors, the point was made that an advisor can help one avoid mistakes.

Angela Caputo of Lackawanna College, also spoke to the students about what the school offers, at Lake Region Center located at the Hawley Silk Mill, as well as at the main campus in Scranton.

Important need

“Having served as a community banker for 44 years in a variety of capacities, I have observed the shortcomings of public educational institutions in terms of financial and economic education,” Dakey commented later, for this article.  “Graduating high school [seniors] lack even basic knowledge of budgeting, how to properly maintain a checking account and the basics of loans. Investing fundamentals, critical for saving and future retirement needs, are not provided in an era when saving for retirement is critical.”

Based in Bloomsburg, PennCFL serves 38 counties in Pennsylvania. They oversaw over 2,000 student teams in the fall and nearly doubled in the spring. In addition to the Stock Market Challenge, they also offer business plan competitions and Shark Tank” style student competitions to encourage fresh and innovative business ideas.

For more information visit www.penncfl.org.