Hands-on financial ed for Coalhurst High students

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Coalhurst High School students at the High School Finance Competition, from left to right, Alex Evetts, Jacqueline Sears, Shaye Pierson, Charli Watmough, Justin Leonard, Nathanial Zaina and Conner Lee.

LETHBRIDGE – Alex Evetts was looking for something different when he signed up for the High School Finance Competition. While it was an eye-opening experience, the Coalhurst High School student found he wasn’t as far removed from the classroom as he might have thought.

Evetts came across more than a few familiar terms during the second annual competition at the University of Lethbridge, which teaches students about investing and the fundamentals of the stock market.

“The Sharpe ratio is found using a bunch of math formulas and it’s all about average returns, risk and probabilities, which is all big in math,” he says. “It’s always nice to see real-life applications of what seem like abstract things we learn in math, and that it’s all valuable in one way or another.”

The competition featured 13 teams from 10 high schools across southern Alberta. Coalhurst entered a pair of teams for the first time, with Evetts joined by Charli Watmough, Jacqueline Sears and Shaye Pierson. Justin Leonard, Connor Lee and Nathanial Zaina comprised the second squad.

All are Grade 11 students in Micheal Barwegen’s math class, with the exception of Sears, a Grade 9 student whose older brother competed for Coalhurst High School last year. None of them knew a lot about the world of finance, says Evetts, but thought it might be an interesting experience.

The competition, which wound up at the university’s Centre for Financial Market Research and Teaching, featured two components.

In the Investment Challenge, each team could purchase gold, treasury bills and shares in 10 different, fictitious companies. They made their decisions based on market news released to them over the span of about a month.

“For example, they might tell us Acme Corp. is cutting its number of products, and based on that, we would have to judge whether the prices would rise or go down,” says Evetts.

Each team followed up with a presentation on how they fared and what went into their decisions to buy or sell.

“It’s a little intimidating being in front of a panel of judges, professionals in the field, but I think in general we did all right,” he says. “We’re not the best of presenters, but it was good practice.”

The Trading Challenge was held on campus, with teams competing against each other in real-time and decisions made on the fly. It was Evetts’ favourite part of the competition.

 “It was fun to go to the university, to be in that environment with all those professionals, and to sit down and compete live against the other teams. It just gets you into that competitive spirit and definitely got the adrenalin going,” he says.

Although neither Palliser team brought home a trophy as a top-three finisher, Evetts says he would definitely recommend the experience to others.

“Our team has already talked about this and decided next year we are going to try again, and take what we learned this year and hopefully do better next time,” he says.

The competition, sponsored by the University of Lethbridge’s Faculty of Management, provided an education in financial literacy. It also offers a sneak peek at a possible career path

Evetts has his eye on the medical profession for now, but when it comes to his future plans, he notes, he’s changed his mind before.

“It was fun and I enjoyed it for what it was,” says Evetts of the finance competition. “If there is a great opportunity (in finances) that opens up, I guess it would just depend on what it is.”

Go to https://youtu.be/FfJHGThDGzw to view a video on the High School Finance Competition, including interviews with Coalhurst students and Barwegen. The production is part of Season 8 of “A Public Education,” which is sponsored by Palliser ATA Local 19 and other partners.