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Smith MS Student Wins Top Prize for Investment Plan

Connor Markwell first became fascinated with investing in elementary school, and when he was in fifth grade, his father introduced him to the stock market through the purchase of two shares of Apple. Three years later, as a Smith Middle School (SMS) student in Tony Carter’s eighth grade social studies class, Markwell created an investment plan for the contest InvestWrite. In August of this year, Markwell learned he had won first place in the nation, beating out thousands of other middle school students.

“While I had not experienced the stock market first hand until my investment in fifth grade, I had always heard of it through my father,” Markwell said. “He would often talk about the Dow going up in points, or going down. He would also show me his portfolio in E-Trade in attempts to explain what the stock market was to my younger self. I knew only the basic principle it rested on, investing in companies. It was this purchasing of shares that compelled me the most when I was younger. The idea of owning a small share in Apple or Amazon was astounding to me. The ability for that share to grow without me having to do anything was also very intriguing. As I progressed in age, I learned more and more about the stock market, until in fifth grade, I made my first investment.”

“This was the first year my class participated in the Stock Market Game," Carter said. “Previously, I had created my own stock market game (based off the 1920’s, complete with the crash of 1929) that I did with the students. We cover financial literacy in our curriculum, and this is how we look at investing. The students really enjoyed participating as they were able to buy and sell stocks in real time with today's stock market. They were competing in small groups against other groups in our school and across the state, so they really wanted to do well. It was great to see them research a company to figure out if it was a good investment or not. At first, many of them picked companies they knew the most about (Amazon, Google, Nike, etc.), but when they really studied the stock market and saw the fluctuations each day, they realized how many other companies are good investments for short or long term investments. Having students work with a live simulation really helped them understand and gain more interest in the stock market than simply talking about it in class.” 

In Markwell’s winning essay, he wrote, “I was presented with this essay question by my social studies teacher, and I thought it was a perfect opportunity to give my own opinion and beliefs on how the stock market is creating room for new jobs, as well as affecting our communities, and how by investing long term in companies, I can diversify my portfolio such that my investments now are successfully helping me and others for the next 10 years. So now I am prompted to ask a new question, three years after purchasing my first stock, which is, ‘Can I select a stock, bond, and mutual fund to invest in that will advance our local community as well as generate job opportunities and boost the American economy, while also helping me save for my own future?’” 

“In order to answer this question,” Markwell said, “I researched some of the most forward-thinking, local companies in North Carolina that consistently generate new job opportunities, and that investing in will help grow the business as well as its workforce.” He settled on a IBM stock, New Alternatives, an eco-friendly mutual fund and a bond purchase.

The headline of the press release from the North Carolina Council on Economic Education (NCCEE) reads, “Chapel Hill Middle Schooler’s Award-Winning Financial Plan Wows Wall Street.” Not bad for a young man who tackled the challenge of the essay for extra credit.

Carter said, “As part of my class, we were playing the Stock Market Game and competition, then students were going to participate in the InvestWrite competition and write the essay based on what they learned in class. Due to Covid-19, we did not get to the essay, but I offered it as an extra opportunity for students if they wanted to do it.”

“The Stock Market Essay Contest was very educational and fun,” Markwell said. “Through my research, I learned a lot about mutual funds and bonds, as well as ways to support my community through investing. The only negative thing about the whole experience was that I had not heard of this competition sooner. If more people knew about this, I'm sure that the number of essay submissions would skyrocket.

Carter added, “The national winner was supposed to get a class pizza party, a trip to NYC to receive the award, ring in the start of the New York Stock Exchange, and then tour. Due to Covid, they gave us $750, plus Connor received a $500 scholarship in a 529 account.”

The Stock Market Game and InvestWrite are offered in North Carolina through the NCCEE, and the Triangle Challenge of the programs are supported by the Coastal Credit Union Foundation. “We honor and congratulate our InvestWrite winning student and teacher,” said Sandy Wheat, Executive Director of NCCEE. “Helping North Carolina students better understand our economy, our markets, the role of investors, and how to make good investments will pay dividends for the students, their education, and the North Carolina economy.”