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JA Stock Market Challenge

Lincoln High juniors (from left) Mirand Ceja, Monica Pester and Karolin Murad react after the boards on a simulated stock market exchange took a turn for the worse Nov. 14, 2017, during the annual Junior Achievement of Lincoln Stock Market Challenge at Innovation Campus. The event returns Tuesday. 

There won’t be billions of real dollars of transactions taking place like you’d expect on the New York Stock Exchange. But the high school students who participate in Junior Achievement’s Stock Market Challenge next week will get a pseudo Wall Street experience without ever leaving Lincoln.

About 600 students representing 37 Nebraska high schools will gather Tuesday at Nebraska Innovation Campus to experience the unpredictable ride through the highs and lows of the stock market. Four-member teams comprising some of the area high schools’ smartest investors will match wits and test their skills.

Thrust into the roles of Wall Street power brokers, members of each competing team will get $1 million in play money to invest in fictitious stocks. Sifting through the latest developments from the financial markets, teams will be challenged to analyze and decide what actions they should take.

“The event marks its fourth year, and involves real trading among students,” Junior Achievement of Lincoln President Tera Norris said during a presentation to the Sunrise Optimist Club of Lincoln last week.

How it works

Throughout the 60-turn trading period, news from the financial markets will challenge teams to analyze and decide their actions. The event simulates 1-2 years of the market, with each 80-second turn resembling about two weeks of real time. The event is considered a hybrid of personal and institutional trading.

“Not only will students learn the nuances of investing and trading, they will practice important skills such as critical thinking, teamwork, problem-solving and decision-making,” said Norris.

The team with the highest return at the end of the 60 turns wins.

Lessons in investing

Prior to the innovative, high-tech event, students receive five lessons from their JA teacher about long-term investing, the value of investing in funds rather than direct stock purchases and the need to plan for retirement.

While teams can adopt whatever strategy they like, teams are rewarded for using buy-and-hold strategies versus commissions that eat away at gains.

Stock Market Challenge sessions are scheduled from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., with a corporate event to follow from 5:30 to 8 p.m.

Participating high schools in the Stock Market Challenge field will include Lincoln’s six public high schools, as well as Lincoln Christian School, Lincoln Lutheran, Lincoln Pius X, Parkview Christian and Waverly high schools.

Growth of JA

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The Stock Market Challenge is one of the highlights of the JA year. Fueled by the support of more than 1,000 volunteer instructors, JA of Lincoln has virtually doubled in the number of students it has reached in the past eight years, said Norris.

“We’ve grown in that eight-year span from reaching 16,000 students to working with 31,000 students,” said Norris, a 10-year JA employee.

In general terms, it’s all about showing kids what’s possible if they work hard, stay in school and achieve their dreams, she said. And, it wouldn’t be possible without 1,000-plus dedicated adult volunteers.

“JA volunteers believe they can make a difference, and they teach more than 30,000 students each year that they can make a difference, too,” Norris told the Sunrise Optimists.

Other major events on the JA calendar this year include a highly successful bowl-a-thon, scheduled for Feb. 23, 2019, and a golf tournament.

JA is also in its fifth year of operating a year-round program for budding entrepreneurs at Cathedral of the Risen Christ School, where students create businesses, buy and sell products, and pursue a scholarship awarded to the winner.

More details about JA of Lincoln are at www.juniorachievement.org

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