Making $10,000 is a pretty heady experience - even if it isn't real money.
Just ask Lauren Best, Essence Hall, Celena Howard and Melinda Stephens, a group of A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet High School freshmen who won a regional award for their investment talent last semester.
The girls, along with the rest of economics teacher Sherry Fleming's class, participated in a stock market investment game sponsored by the Georgia Council of Economic Education. Each group was "given" $100,000 in imaginary money and allowed to buy and sell stocks through an Internet investment firm.
By wrapping up their stock market stint with $110,000, the four girls overtook other competitors at the last minute.
"We were kind of excited - we didn't think we were going to win," said Essence, 14.
"The other group would spend their whole lunch period buying and selling," added Lauren, 15. "Then we sold ours at the last minute and shot up."
Ms. Fleming and the girls will travel to Atlanta on Saturday to attend a luncheon with other regional winners and pick up prizes.
Librarians at A.R. Johnson reported a surge in computer use before school and during lunch periods as teens checked their stocks during the competition, Ms. Fleming said. But unlike many students who were caught up in the excitement of buying and selling stocks, Lauren, Essence, Celena and Melinda made their purchases and then sat on them - the safest plan for getting a good return in real life, Ms. Fleming pointed out.
They concentrated on technology stocks and managed to pull out of the market before those stocks plummeted - a move many real investors didn't manage.
"It was a couple of months before Christmas, so we figured most technology stocks would come up" Essence said. "So we invested our money and rode the bull."
They giggle some over the Wall Street jargon, but the words have already started falling with ease from their lips: "bull market," "buy low and sell high."
That's one advantage to the program, Ms. Fleming said: It gives students hands-on experience in the financial world. They get drawn into The Wall Street Journal. They learn how to read stock figures and gauge the market, and they see the results - even if they are intangible - when investments do well.
The competition also teaches students about the global economy and the intricacies of corporate ownership. If they wanted to purchase stock in the FUBU clothing company, for instance, they had to find out what company owned FUBU.
Now, Essence is keeping an eye on the stocks her mother earned working at BellSouth. Many students have opened Individual Retirement Accounts, and one boy is determined to max out his IRA before he spends money on a car, Ms. Fleming said.
"For many of the kids, this has sparked a real interest," she said. "I started a stock market club, and I have almost 70 members in the club. Students come by my class and ask how they should invest their real money."