High Finance for the Middle School Set
CGSOM mentors give Boston 7th-graders a look at the stock market

By Reid Oslin
Staff Writer

    Linda Kieu isnít even old enough for a driverís license yet, but sheís already demonstrated financial acumen worthy of a Peter Lynch.

    Over a six-week period last fall, the 7th grader from the Taft Middle School in Allston managed an imaginary stock portfolio that outperformed the leading market indicators.

    Kieu is one of the successful participants in "Invest ëN Kids," the innovative Carroll Graduate School of Management tutorial program that brings some 50 Boston schoolchildren to campus each week for one-on-one tutoring sessions with MBA students. In addition to strengthening their skills in math, reading and computer use, the middle school students learn basic elements of finance, economics and business through exercises such as an imaginary stock competition and a junior entrepreneur project debuting this spring.

    As part of last fallís mock investment exercise, students were given an imaginary $5,000 to invest in two to five stocks of his or her choice. Working with their CGSOM mentors, the children followed the progress of their portfolios for six weeks and had the opportunity to "trade" their holdings once a week. The students learned how to track stocks on the Internet and to use computers to graph the returns of their initial investments.

    Kieu had the highest return of the 38 schoolchildren who took part in the stock market game. Her portfolio showed profits of more than 47 percent during the period, while the Dow Jones average advanced only 5 percent and the Standard & Poors Index produced a 7 percent dividend. Overall, 31 of the participating students realized increased returns on their "investments."

Corey Riley, a second-year student in the Carroll Graduate School of Management, works with "Invest 'N Kids" program participant Maurice Sawyer of the John W. McCormack School in Boston. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)

    Kieu, a 12-year-old from Allston, said her investment strategy included purchase of shares in Yahoo! computer services, General Motors, and LEGO Co. She said she initially bought shares of Gap Clothing Co., but jettisoned those in favor of Marketwatch, an Internet brokerage service. "Those little companies can make a big difference," she noted.

    Kieu said she was steered to the program last February by a school guidance counselor who felt she needed some additional help in math. "I learned a lot about fractions by watching the stock quotations," she said. "I also learned how to invest on-line."

    Kailyn Lozar, a second-year MBA student who is directing this yearís program with classmates Ryan Swift and Christopher Hay, feels that the weekly tutoring sessions are as valuable for the 45 CGSOM students involved as they are for their young charges.

    "We have just fallen in love with these kids, the program and the idea behind it," she said. "Itís a great way for Boston College to give something back to the community."

    Lozar noted that "the children are excited to be a part of this program and it has really been a good experience for everyone involved. We are not just their tutors and mentors, but also we have become their friends. Some wonderful relationships have developed."

    City school administrators and teachers have been equally enthusiastic about the program, Lozar adds. "The principal at Taft School called to say that not only was there an improvement in the competence of the children that we were tutoring, but their overall self-esteem, behavior and approach to school was much better as well," she said.

    Gerardo Martinez, an English teacher at Taft who helps supervise the students enrolled in the Invest ëN Kids program, called the tutoring opportunity "one of the most important things these children have" to augment their classroom education.

    He said that the attendance rate at the weekly tutoring sessions has exceeded 90 percent, and disciplinary problems have been minimal. "I think we have seen a great sense of community develop between Taft, Boston College, the children and their families," Martinez said. "The children are getting the kinds of community support that they need."

    This spring, the program will launch a "Kids ëPreneurship" project that will introduce the children to business concepts such as research, marketing, finance and sales, Lozar said. The project will involve groups of students selecting a small product, such as candy bars or T-shirts, and setting up a system to sell the item on campus.

    "The children couldnít wait to get back for the new semester, " said Martinez. "They kept asking me, ëWhen are we going to start?í"

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