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Investing in the future: Students spearhead finance club at Mayo High School

"The beauty and the sadness of the stock market is you don't know what's going to happen," the student Sam Kalina said. Except for Matha Stewart, he then clarified.

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Sam Kalina, a senior and founder of the Mayo High School Stock Club, leads a club meeting Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, at Mayo High School in Rochester. Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
Joe Ahlquist

After classes on Thursday, a group of 17 teenagers gathered in a room at Mayo High School and started comparing investments.

Sam Kalina, a senior, worked the laptop, projecting one graph after another onto the board at the front of the room, showing how everyone’s stocks performed since they last met.

The students’ gains -- and losses -- were all over the map: some had lost ground. One student who invested in Tesla gained more than 30%. The teens booed and cheered for each other when their portfolios showed larger than expected improvement or decline.

Kalina started the investment club this school year, giving himself and his peers a chance to dig into the world of stock markets, gains, losses, supply chains, and everything else related to the realm of finance.

“As I started to get more into it, I realized this is knowledge that other people should have -- that other teenagers also need to have for their future financial success,” Kalina said. “And I began to get a lot of comments from adults, wishing they had started at the same age I had -- telling me how much of a head start I had compared to them.”

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Kalina had some rudimentary knowledge of the stock market beforehand. But when the pandemic hit and began wreaking havoc on the marketplace, he realized he wanted to know more.

He created a custodial account with his parents, allowing him to take part in the action directly. He invested in industries like airlines and travel. He didn't know much at the time, but he realized that anything he bought in March probably would rebound at a certain point after taking an initial hit. When he first began investing, he'd set an alarm every morning so he could be ready to go as soon as the market opened.

As chance would have it, he realized a group of his friends also had been looking at the stock market. One of those was Jack Koestering, another senior who is involved with the club.

"That COVID summer, we were super bored, and we just decided to take stocks head on, and we've been really into it ever since," Koestering said. "We knew almost nothing before that."

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Grant Woodcock, second from right, a junior, makes his simulated stock picks as, from left, Sam Kalina, a senior and founder of the club, Alonso Montori, a junior, and Ellie Harris, also a senior, look on during a meeting of the Mayo High School Stock Club Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, at Mayo High School in Rochester. Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
Joe Ahlquist

The students in the club aren’t actually investing. Each student is given an amount of fake money with which to make hypothetical investments. But the companies they are studying are real, as are their successes and failures.

As students were busy setting up their new investments Thursday, the room buzzed with the kind of conversation that might be heard at some sort of low-stakes stock exchange.

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“My two dollars are on the line,” one student jokingly said to a friend.

“Hey Sam, show me how to get to the penny stocks,” another student asked Kalina as he stared at his phone.

With Michael Jackson and Queen playing in the background, club members alternated between talking about finance and what they were planning to wear to the next big event on the social calendar.

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Isaac Vanderwaerdt, a junior, picks his simulated stocks during a meeting of the Mayo High School Stock Club Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, at Mayo High School in Rochester. Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
Joe Ahlquist

Club adviser Benjamin Joslin said there are multiple reasons why it's good for students to explore the stock market.

"The education of actually doing it -- that's a real world situation," Joslin said. "It helps them with everything. It helps them with their math skills. It helps them understand the economy. It even helps them understand politics."

Later during the club's meeting, Kalina took on the role of a teacher, answering questions as they would pop up. He pulled up an article about the current supply chain jam and began explaining how issues like that could affect the market.

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Joslin helped provide context as he listened from the back of the room, telling the class that you have to ride out some of the smaller swings in the market and play for the long haul.

“This is the thing you can see about the stock market: it's up and down, up and down. Don't get skittish,'" Joslin told the students. "You need a long-term investment if you're going to be serious about the stock market."

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Jack Koestering, a senior, picks out his simulated stocks during a meeting of the Mayo High School Stock Club Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, at Mayo High School in Rochester. Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
Joe Ahlquist

Kalina talked about believing in a company, and how that's important if you decide to double down on them while their stock is declining. Joslin reiterated that, explaining that there was a time when Apple was considered "a bottom feeder."

Kalina said the topics covered in the club are often question-driven. Sometimes there are rudimentary questions, and other times they're more advanced.

"The beauty and the sadness of the stock market is you don't know what's going to happen," Kalina said. "But it's also good because it's a universal thing... nobody knows what's going to happen."

Except for that one lady who got thrown in jail for insider trading, Kalina clarified.

"Martha Stewart," someone chimed in.

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