LAYTON – Over the course of 10 weeks during the fall semester, 660 student teams across Utah — from elementary through high school — competed to earn the highest return in a real-time stock market simulation called the Stock Market Game. Alexis Aguirre, a senior from Northridge High School, took home the top honors, ranking first among competitors of all ages.

“I didn’t know what a stock was before this,” said Aguirre. “You come in blank, and then when you leave, you have so much knowledge.”

As part of the game, students have a budget of $100,000 that they can invest in stocks on the New York and American stock exchanges and on the Nasdaq Stock Market. They watch the performance of their hypothetical investments according to the rise and fall of the actual markets.

Aguirre said he was checking the performance of his investments at almost every opportunity and following Yahoo Finance’s “most active” page to make investment decisions.

The decision that ultimately led to his win was a $25,000 investment in India Globalization Capital Inc. (IGC) early in the game. Aguirre made the decision with his partner, who stopped participating in the game after the fifth week. He and his partner, Aguirre said, were “the perfect duo.”

When the stock appeared to be nearing a peak based on its past performance, Aguirre and his partner decided to sell.

Ultimately, Aguirre, with some early help from his partner, made a net equity gain of $21,981.66. The second-place team trailed them by $5,500.

Aguirre’s experience playing the Stock Market Game has expanded his academic interests and may affect his education and career plans after high school.

“I’ve had ideas of what I want to do (in the future),” he said, “but then I found out I’m good at this.”

This achievement is particularly meaningful to Aguirre because of the sacrifices he has made in order to receive an education in the United States.

Aguirre was born in the U.S., but his parents had immigrated to the United States illegally. When he was nine, his parents were deported, and he moved with them back to Mexico.

He returned to the Utah at the beginning of his sophomore year in order to complete high school and college. Aguirre’s older brother, a legal resident, adopted him so that he could attend public schools, which require a legal guardian to enroll.

Aguirre earned excellent grades during his sophomore year of high school, which he attended at Ogden High. However, he has had to work long hours throughout high school in order to pay for his own needs and help his brother with some living expenses.

As coursework got more challenging in his junior year at Northridge, he was exhausted, and his grades started to slip. Excelling in the Stock Market Game in the fall of his senior year has reignited his commitment to school and motivated him to continue moving forward.

“My parents and my brother always taught me to keep on going and keep on moving,” he said.

Aguirre hasn’t seen his parents for 2 ½ years, but he talks to them on the phone every day. During the stock market competition, he would proudly report his ranking to his mom every time they checked in. She would tell him that she was proud, even if he lost his first-place ranking.

“I was taught very well by my parents that whether you win or lose, you’re still good. You’re still our son,” he said.

Shad McCord, Aguirre’s financial literacy teacher, has advised many winning teams over his nine years of teaching the game — out of 18 awards banquets since he started, he’s attended 15 of them with his students — but he is particularly proud of Aguirre’s accomplishment.

“Just the amount of effort that he puts into things makes me very proud and excited for these opportunities for him because these are things he’ll never forget,” McCord said. “This will stay with him forever.”

The Stock Market Game was developed by the SIFMA (Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association) Foundation, which primarily provides the software platform for the game.

In partnership with the Utah Jumpstart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, the Utah State Treasurer’s Office manages communications with teachers in Utah, holds the awards banquets, and facilitates donations and fundraising in order to cover the $5 cost for each team that participates.

While the Stock Market Game is often taught in the financial literacy course required of all high school students in Utah, students also participate in the game through business, marketing, and math classes.

In a 2009 study funded by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and conducted by the American Institutes for Research (formerly Learning Point Associates), researchers found that students who participated in the Stock Market Game substantially outperformed students who had not participated on tests of mathematics and investor knowledge. Teaching the Stock Market Game also improved the financial decisions of teachers.

To donate to Utah’s Stock Market Game in order to cover the cost of teams to participate, or to connect your school to the program, contact the Utah State Treasurer’s Office at smg@utah.gov or 801-538-1042.

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