By Gina Morton

The Daily Item

NORTHUMBERLAND — As students and teachers lined the front of the room trying to balance peacock feathers on their hands, Jack Anderson continually reminded them to remain focused.

"In order to be successful in the stock market, you really have to know what you're up against," Anderson said.

Anderson, coordinator of gifted programs in the Mifflin County School District, spoke at Wednesday's Stock Market Game Challenge luncheon at Front Street Station.

"In this example here," he said of the feathers, "we're going to control the balance of this peacock feather by focusing on a central point."

Those attempting to balance the feathers began walking around the front of the room trying not to let the object drop.

"If the peacock feather were like the stock market, it would decide to go in different directions," Anderson said, moving around the room, balancing the feather. "You would have to follow it and you would have to try to maintain some sort of control, although keeping your eye on the center point, just like you would be keeping your eye on the stock you purchased and the sector you purchased it."

The Lewisburg Area High School stock market team did just that in this year's challenge.

Ines Antensteiner, Madi Fegley and Lauren Lewis were the talk of the day with their final total of $229,365.55, more than doubling their money throughout the competition.

They were recognized for their first-place finish in the high school division at the gathering of 13 school districts and about 160 students.

The average between all districts taking part was a 28 percent raise in money made, thanks to the Lewisburg team's gain.

The three freshman girls said they did no research beforehand and had no prior knowledge of the stock market.

"We made most of our money short-selling," Lewis said.

Short-selling is the practice of selling securities the seller does not then own, in the hope of repurchasing them later at a lower price.

The girls said they took part in the stock market game in the sixth grade, but weren't nearly as successful.

"We were terrible," Antensteiner said. "We just guessed."

They have come a long way since then, and said they plan to continue competing in future competitions.

"They were very consistent in their efforts and dedication," high school teacher Mike Creeger said. "It wasn't just once a day. They continuously checked."

Mark DiRocco, Lewisburg Area School District superintendent, said he was also very pleased with the team's work.

"I am exceptionally proud of the students and grateful of their hard work," he said. "They are very motivated."

Wayne Marks, director of administration for the SIFMA Foundation for Investor Education, said the success of the students shows they are doing their research.

"The winners are most motivated to look for good buys," he said. "It's not a guarantee, but it improves odds. ... For this kind of project, the Internet makes it more accessible. People say they wish they had this as a kid."

A group of students from the Shikellamy School District placed first in the middle school division.

Despite its being a first-time experience for sixth-graders Sam Zartman, Samantha Poff, Sadie Dorman and Kaitlyn Musser, the team finished with a total of $114,092.59.

"We mostly invested in metals," Zartman said, "which was doing really well."

While there was no real reason to invest in metals, the students said they watched their stocks on the Internet and "got rid of the bad" and bought new.

Shikellamy social studies teacher Debbie Zweier said she was proud of the work her students did with the challenge.

"It was a tough year for the stock market," Zweier said, "but they did really well. They kept plugging away."

Principal Michael Hubicki agreed.

"It was great they competed against older students," he said. "They worked hard ... and we're excited."

"It was a fun experience," Musser said, "but you have to watch the stocks and keep track. They go up and down every week."

Carolyn Shirk, community resource manager with EconomicsPennsylvania, said she trained all the teachers and operated the program in 21 counties and schools in the region.

"(The students) all worked incredibly hard to be here," she said. "I'm grateful to The Daily Item and First National Bank. Without sponsors we wouldn't have this opportunity."

• E-mail comments to gmorton@dailyitem.com.

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