Three AITE students won big when Gamestop stocks soared — if only the $27k were real money

Photo of Ignacio Laguarda
From left to right, Academy of Information Technology and Engineering sophomores Marco Ratermann, Laurel Fuda, and Stacey Pierre recently finished second place in a national competition that tested student’s ability to play the stock market.

From left to right, Academy of Information Technology and Engineering sophomores Marco Ratermann, Laurel Fuda, and Stacey Pierre recently finished second place in a national competition that tested student’s ability to play the stock market.

Contributed photo

STAMFORD — When Gamestop stocks soared in early 2021 as part of a social media-led squeeze from small investors, a trio of Stamford students got in on the action.

Sure, they were only playing with hypothetical money, but the investment choices made by sophomores Laurel Fuda, Stacey Pierre and Marco Ratermann from the Academy of Information Technology & Engineering earned the team a second pace finish in a nationwide competition involving every American congressional district.

The students actually missed the boat on the first big boom in Gamestop’s stock price in January, a topic that received worldwide attention because of its financial consequences, but were able to ride the stock’s popularity over the following months.

Ultimately, they took a hypothetical $100,000 online portfolio of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, environmental, social and corporate governance investments, or ESG, and cash, and turned it into equity worth $127,224.08.

The annual competition, dubbed the Capitol Hill Challenge, is organized by the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) Foundation, an educational nonprofit arm of the association. The umbrella organization SIFMA is an industry trade group that represents securities firms, banks and asset management companies across the globe, with nearly 1 million employees.

In total, 10,000 students participated in the 14-week competition, which pairs each congressional district with its corresponding congressperson. For AITE, that was U.S. Rep. Jim Himes.

The AITE students participated in the Capitol Hill Challenge as part of a finance class taught by teacher Ray Milo, who has participated in the SIFMA program for roughly a decade.

A team from his class came in first place about seven years ago, and the second-place finishers this year also came from his classroom.

Milo, who teaches an international business class and a personal finance class at AITE, had 10 teams of students in his classes take part in the challenge. His stripped-down advice for students was simple: “Look at companies that have potential growth in a very short period of time.”

Fuda, Pierre and Ratermann certainly did that, by investing about a fourth of their portfolio in the Gamestop stock, which Milo referred to as as their “golden goose.”

Students in the competition could only invest up to 25 percent in any one stock, so the three students decided to max out their investment. It proved to be a wise decision, if a risky proposition.

“They took a calculated risk and they liked this company because they’re familiar with it,” Milo said.

Each of the winning AITE students received a cash prize of $500 dollars for finishing in second place. They appeared in a video released this week that included the top 10 performers of the competition as well as various congresspeople.

“I never would have expected to gain so much knowledge on the stock market,” Pierre said, in the video. “Being given the responsibility to purchase stocks and maintain financial stability really made me nervous and knowing that we were competing against the entire country was another weight to carry.”

Ratermann said the challenge helped him understand how businesses work.

“Partaking in this challenge really opened my eyes and showed me a new part of the business world I never comprehended before,” he said, in the video.

Fuda said the task was daunting at first since she wasn’t familiar with the finance world. But through working with her group members and Milo, she said the team was able to identify companies worth investing in.

“I never really thought of myself to be an investor, she said, in the video, later adding, “I still don’t know what I want for my future, but I’m sure it will involve the stock market.”

Milo has long been an advocate for increased financial education in schools, which dovetails with the SIFMA Foundation’s similar goal of helping students better understand personal finance, saving, investing and capital markets.

Melanie Mortimer, president of the SIFMA Foundation, said financial literacy and education have been neglected in public schools.

“Schools think that the parents are doing it, parents think the schools are doing it, and somehow kids are being dropped from the picture,” she said.

She touted the foundation’s Capitol Hill Challenge, as well as its flagship program, “The Stock Market Game,” as ways for students to learn about finance and economics, while also helping to raise their math scores.

“Numeracy is at the base of financial literacy,” she said. “When investing in the market, everything you’re doing is math-based.”

Additionally, she said students involved in the program start watching the news more attentively and pay more attention to what is happening around them in order to make sound financial decisions.

She praised Milo for his work and success teaching finances to Stamford students.

“Ray has been very dedicated to financial education,” she said. “He understands that he has the power as a teacher to not just teach academic subjects but to enrich students with life skills as well.”

ignacio.laguarda@stamfordadvocate.com