BC senior wins NYS InvestWrite competition, earns second place in nation

Bethlehem Central High School senior Gabriel Martin defied the odds by creating a high-powered investment portfolio that could make Wall Street proud. Martin’s investment strategy and essay earned him 2nd place in the nation and 1st place in New York State in the SIFMA Foundation’s Fall 2023 InvestWrite competition.

In recognition of his accomplishment, Martin and his AP Economics teacher, Jason Majewski, were honored by the SIFMA Foundation during a special classroom celebration on May 15, 2024. In addition to trophies and a banner for both teacher and student, Martin received a new laptop computer and a gift card.

The InvestWrite competition is a culminating activity for the Stock Market Game™, a curriculum-based financial education program challenging students to manage a hypothetical $100,000 online portfolio of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and cash. While the Stock Market Game allows students to build a virtual portfolio over a three-month period, the InvestWrite essay challenges the same students to address real-world financial issues and situations by writing about their long-term investment strategies.  Students in Mr. Majewski’s class have been participating in both SIFMA-sponsored activities for more than a dozen years.

“It brings me immense joy to extend my heartfelt congratulations to Gabriel and his teacher for a remarkable achievement in InvestWrite,” said Melanie Mortimer, President of the SIFMA Foundation. “Gabriel’s essay details a very thoughtful and compelling plan for long-term financial independence. His achievement signals the value of early financial education in setting youth on a path to positive financial life outcomes.”

As part of the fall 2023 InvestWrite competition, Martin chose sustainability as an ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) issue he feels strongly about and designed a strategy for leveraging diversification in the markets and balancing risk by investing in companies working toward sustainability.  In his winning essay, Martin describes a plan to invest long-term investment gains to help reduce urban heat islands in the city of Albany. His virtual investment plan identifies support for the Radix Ecological Sustainability Center in Albany to help achieve these goals. The center has been planting fruit and nut trees throughout the city to address the environmental and health-related impacts of urban heat islands in the city.

Martin plans to attend Dartmouth College in the fall. 

Congratulations to Gabe Martin and Jason Majewski on this exceptional honor! You can read more below about Gabe’s winning essay.

Read Gabriel Martin’s winning InvestWrite essay

 Sustainability Through Diversification 

During the Fall Stock Market Game, my investments that experienced the most growth were Invesco QQQ ETF (QQQ), Vanguard 500 Index Fund ETF (VOO), Fidelity 500 Index Fund (FXAIX), Cisco Systems (CSCO), and Alaska Airlines (ALK). Roughly half of my portfolio consists of the aforementioned ETFs and mutual funds, establishing a stable base. By investing in these indexes, I can diversify my portfolio across numerous sectors to mitigate risk while still taking advantage of the recent market growth, especially amongst the companies within the Magnificent Seven (Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, Amazon, Nvidia, Meta, and Tesla) that make up a major percentage of the index funds. 

Furthermore, the stability and diversification of the ETF/Mutual Fund base permitted me to execute riskier plays with the market, prompting my investment in Cisco (CSCO). In mid-November, Cisco’s Q1 Earnings Report led investors to be wary of a decrease in the expected revenue for Q2. While others backed out of Cisco, I hopped in. Despite the iffy earnings report, I was confident in Cisco’s ability to bounce back, which led to a 7% return on a $30,000 investment. 

The highest earner on my portfolio, Alaska Air (ALK), came about following the merger announcement with Hawaiian Airlines. In a similar fashion to Cisco, many investors backed out, but I took advantage of the uncertainty and felt confident that recovery was imminent. Thus, I was able to receive a 20% gain on a $15,000 investment. The balance of stability in indexes and the confidence to pounce on falling stocks to benefit from their recovery were the two key factors for success in the Fall game. 

As we move deeper into the 21st century, environmental sustainability and social issues are increasingly prioritized. The key companies leading the pack towards ESG (Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance) practices are members of the previously mentioned Magnificent Seven. Through initiatives in decreasing carbon footprint, ensuring an equitable working environment, and promoting the use of renewable energy all while experiencing massive expansion in recent years, the Magnificent Seven have and will continue to see hefty market gains. Microsoft’s commitment to becoming carbon negative, water positive, and zero waste by 2030 as well as their recent $50 million investment towards racial justice highlights their status as a trailblazer for an ESG future and ensures that their ideals are keeping up with the ideals of the 21st century investor. When investing in ESG stocks, one may feel confident that they are buying stock in a company that will not lag behind the social and economic development of the modern day. 

For a long-term (10 year) portfolio, I desire to invest in leaders that will bring me to the new era of sustainability. Thus, my investment will be 18 shares in QQQ, which will make up 73% of the $10,000 portfolio. The top holdings of QQQ in order of allocation percentage are Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Broadcom, Tesla, Meta, Nvidia, and Alphabet. Evidently, the main holdings are almost identical to the Magnificent Seven. Through investing in QQQ, I am able to ride the market growth of these major companies in the next 10 years, while not experiencing the risk of one of these companies failing. Especially with a smaller cash reserve available, it is beneficial to invest in index fund ETFs such as QQQ to obtain instant diversification amongst numerous industries with just a $400 share price. To fill the remaining portfolio reserve, I will invest 50 shares in Brookfield Renewable Partners LP (BEP) for 13% of the portfolio, and eight shares of First Solar, Inc. (FSLR) to fill an additional 13%. Both BEP and FSLR are promising leaders in the renewable energy sector, paving the way for a decarbonized and sustainable solution. Thus, I expect to see strong returns in the coming years as we transition to a more sustainable society. Similar to the Fall Stock Market Game, my $10,000 portfolio is aimed at managing risk while concurrently providing the opportunity to see strong returns that match societal shifts.    

Following the returns from the portfolio, I plan to help tackle the community issue of urban heat islands in the city of Albany, New York. Urban heat islands (UHI’s) are areas within cities that experience significantly higher temperatures than their surrounding rural areas, with increased heat retention in structures and surfaces. The phenomenon occurs due to replacement of natural vegetation with impermeable surfaces, human-generated thermal pollution, and the concentration of buildings which block natural ventilation. UHI’s are prevalent in Albany, and consequently the community is experiencing increased energy consumption, elevated temperatures, and possible health risks. Within the last couple of years, the Radix Ecological Sustainability Center in Albany has planted 175 fruit- and nut-bearing street trees, which provides shade, breaks up the impervious sidewalk, absorbs rainwater, and serves as a natural means to purify the air. The profits from my original investment portfolio can be used to continue the work of the Radix Center to achieve the goal of planting trees in the Albany community to alleviate the negative effects of urban heat islands. Thus, through investing in sustainability, I can directly work to improve the sustainability of my local community, ensuring a prosperous, habitable future for all. 

For more information about the SIFMA Foundation and InvestWrite®, visit www.investwrite.org.