Clara Wood rises to Stock Market Challenge

Mark Gutman/Daily NewsClara Wood turned investing in electric vehicle stocks into a 13 percent return on investment and final value of $28,272 at the virtual event in November.

BATAVIA — Clara Wood says she didn’t have a lot of experience in the stock market before she took part in the 2020 JA (Junior Achievement) Stock Market Challenge.

The Batavia sophomore said the only thing she’d really done before the five-day challenge was to study the market at the beginning of a unit in class.

“It (the contest) was almost an introduction to it. From the news and stuff like that, I knew electric vehicle stocks were something that would be a good thing to get into, especially with (President) Joe Biden being so pro-helping the environment” she said. “I invested in multiple electric vehicle stocks because I believe they are the future, especially because of the push for more environmentally friendly ways of life.

“I loved being able to use my knowledge I have on current world topics to predict the trends we would be seeing in the stock market. I think in the future it would be really interesting to see the outcome of this contest over a time period longer than a week in order for a more realistic experience.”

Her approach going into the Nov. 16-20 virtual event resulted in a second-place finish out of nearly 600 students from 25 Western New York high schools. During the challenge, they experienced the realities of the stock market trading through a virtual simulation and competed for the top 10 spots to earn prizes. Before the event, JA provided an educational program called JA Take Stock in Your Future.

Students competed with a starting portfolio of $25,000. The competition was closely tracked, and the leader board was shared each day. Students were using an online program called and made their trades using real stock values. Following current events and their impacts on the market were more important than ever this year, Junior Achievement said.

At the closing bell, 4 p.m. Nov. 20, Wood finished with a 13-percent return on investment (ROI) and a final value of $28,272.08.

The Batavia student said all she can really remember from the Stock Market Challenge is buying the stocks.

“I wasn’t really even aware I had done so well until she (business teacher Eileen Ognibene) informed me of it. I just bought them and that’s just what happened, I guess,” she said.

Ognibene said she and Wood did a spreadsheet to keep track of the stocks.

“That was my only disappointment, that it was only for a week,” the business teacher said. “We continued through December to track stocks to give them a little more of a feel for what different kinds of things impact the stock market.”

Wood said the contest being so short didn’t make it realistic.

“Obviously, when you’re actually investing stocks, you have these over a long period of time. That’s why we did another thing after, in order to get more of a true feeling of what it’s really like,” she said.

Ognibene and Wood learned how well Wood had done roughly a couple of weeks after the Stock Market Challenge ended.

On how she thought she had done, Clara said, “I’m quite an overachiever, generally, so I was hoping to do well, obviously, when I went into it, but I never expected to honestly do that well.”

Clara said she received an iPad for finishing in second place, a prize which was extremely shocking to her. She also received a book about finance.

“I was so shocked and grateful when I received that (the iPad). I never expected that. I expected a T-shirt. I was in shock for multiple days after receiving it.”

Regarding preparation for the Stock Market Challenge, Ognibene said they talked about things like diversity in your investments. At the time, Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine was under consideration for approval by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“We speculated a lot about what might happen with that if it got approved,” she said.

“In an ideal world, we would have spent more time before we started it than we did,” Ognibene said. “I’ve found that everything this year seems to take longer than you think it’s going to. With the class, talking about different stocks that they might look at — we focused a lot on how things in the news can impact the stock market. We talked a lot about vaccines.”

The winner was Jaidel Johnson from Jamestown High School. Johnson had a 15.9 percent ROI and a net value of $28,998.06. Also in the Top 10 rankings were competition entries from Kelsey Kautz and Amanda Puricelli, both from Alexander High School. Kautz finished seventh with a 5.6-percent ROI and Puricelli 10th with a 4.46-percent ROI.

Participating high schools in Genesee County included Batavia, Alexander and Pembroke.

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