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Published: Sunday, 1/23/2005

In the market for life lessons

BY HOMER BRICKEY
BLADE SENIOR BUSINESS WRITER
At Otsego Middle School, Tyler Carson fills out the required charts tracking his team s choices. At Otsego Middle School, Tyler Carson fills out the required charts tracking his team s choices.
KING / BLADE Enlarge

Tom WIlson had no trouble defending the choice of Google Inc. as an up-and-coming stock. It s one of the most popular [Internet] search engines, he explained. I think it will go up.

Classmate Natalie Pinson has her reasons for liking eBay Inc., the online auction house. My mom buys books off eBay, she said, adding that her family has also bid on gift items offered online.

Michael Cavanaugh noted, It has been doing pretty good, going up steadily. And Tyler Carson offered his opinion: Increasing use of the Internet creates a bigger market for eBay.

The seventh-grade students in an honors language/arts class at Otsego Middle School in Grand Rapids are part of a team, Da Feisty 1s, entered in The Blade s School Stock Contest.

The contest, the first since The Blade did one more than four years ago, is a 16-week competition involving 22 teams and about 250 students from 14 schools across northwest Ohio.

Each team had to select four stocks trading for $5 or more a share and listed by the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange, or Nasdaq.

The selections had to be made by Jan. 14, and the top finishers will be determined based on how those stocks perform through April 29.

A hypothetical stake of $40,000 was divided equally among the four stocks, and the team whose portfolio increases the most will win. The contest tie-breaker is the best guess of the price of Google stock at the end of the contest.

The winning team will get $250 for the school and $250 in gift certificates for the students, said Debby Geyer, The Blade s Newspaper in Education coordinator. Second prize is $150 for the school, and third prize is $100 for the school.

Teachers said they view the contest as a good way for students to learn how news and world events affect the economy and the markets, and it will help them understand how stock investments work.

At Clay High School in Oregon, teacher Debbie Lofquist said her work and family life students need to know about saving and investing. The students range from sophomores to seniors.

One sophomore on the Survivors team, Ashley Luce, likes the chances of Home Depot Inc. because of all the disasters worldwide, which she predicted will help the chain s sales. Sophomore Alexandra Cousino thinks Hershey Foods Corp. will benefit from Valentine s Day.

A senior, Desiree Maix, is happy with the choice of Wesco International Inc., a supplier of electrical construction products. That s good because of housing developments going up, she said.

Ashley Luce, a sophomore at Clay High School, picked Home Depot because she expects demand for building supplies to grow. Ashley Luce, a sophomore at Clay High School, picked Home Depot because she expects demand for building supplies to grow.
HIRES / BLADE Enlarge

Ms. Lofquist said her class wanted an energy play and among the choices, KCS Energy Inc., an oil and gas company, sort of came out of the hat.

Another senior, Eric Miller, said he wants to learn as much as he can about living on his own because he plans to go to college next year. But investing is down the road, he said. I don t know when [that will happen].

At Otsego Middle School one day last week, Da Feisty1s used The Blade and the Internet to check the prices of their four stocks and to fill out their teacher-required charts tracking the information.

Tyler Carson praised the A-plus financial strength of Nike Inc., the maker of footwear and apparel that was another entry from the team.

The team s fourth stock, agribusiness giant Archer-Daniels-Midland Co., was suggested by student Mike Hannewald, who lives on a farm. The other students readily agreed with the logic: No matter what happens to the economy, Americans will still buy food.

The stocks were their choice completely, said teacher Molly Whitmer, who also has an eighth-grade team. Each student has followed 10 stocks for a couple of months, she said, including some that are direct competitors in the same industries.

At Bowling Green High School, four ninth-grade teams under the tutelage of economics teacher Terry Mulgrew were following the initial progress of their stocks.

This exercise is going to be fun, said Mr. Mulgrew. It s a good program, a good learning experience.

Ross McDermott outlined Team Question Mark s strategy: Apple Computer Inc. should do well because of its success with iPod music players and because a lot of people have them and they talk to their friends.

His team went for Anheuser-Busch Companies Inc. because the upcoming Super Bowl will generate a lot of beer sales as well as new advertisements.

And the team likes General Motors Corp. because of new models such as the Chevrolet Cobalt and Pontiac G6, and Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. because of a report the service will carry March Madness college basketball games.

Isabel Pereira De Almeida, with the school s Team Lucky, particularly liked Bebe Stores Inc., a designer and retailer of contemporary women s apparel.

"We thought the spring collection will be coming out soon, she said. Her team also went for American Pharmaceutical Partners Inc. because of a newly approved drug for treatment of breast cancer.

The team also figured Sirius and Monster Worldwide Inc., parent of www.monster.com, an Internet job-search site, have caught the attention of consumers.

The students choices had considerable overlap, said Brian Linn, an assistant vice president of the Sky Investments of Sky Bank of Bowling Green, a contest co-sponsor.

He is tabulating the contest results, which will be reported in The Blade s Business section every Tuesday.

They looked for companies they have familiarity with, which is not a bad thing, he said.

Young people are interested in the same stuff.

Eight teams picked Google, six chose eBay, five chose Nike and Sirius, and four picked Hershey.

In all, the various teams selected 52 stocks. Some are little-known firms, Mr. Linn said.

Participating classes are from fifth to 12th grades and include students in math, social studies, business, speech, history, and government, as well as some in programs for gifted students or who need special education.

Lisa Youngker, fifth grade teacher at St. John Catholic School in Defiance, said her students picked Google, eBay, Hershey, and clothing retailer Gap Inc.

Gap was the girls choice, she said. They like clothes and like to shop.

Bill Pinney, economics teacher at the Toledo Accelerated Academy, a charter school, said, The whole program has been very exciting for students.

"For some it was their first experience with a newspaper. We had spirited discussions.

His 10th and 11th graders particularly followed the aftermath of the Florida hurricanes and how they would affect stocks of firms like Home Depot and Walt Disney Co., he said.

Teaching students how current events affect the economy is important, the teacher said.

This brought a lot of things together for them.

Contact Homer Brickey at: homerbrickey@theblade.com or 419-724-6129.



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