Madeline Saia’s writing recently set a precedent: As an 11-year-old elementary school student, she became the first Montgomery County student to compete nationally in a designated essay contest.
And the topic wasn’t about what he was doing on summer vacation. The topic was a little more difficult – finance and investments.
Saya, a fifth-grader at Christiansburg’s Falling Branch Elementary School, said she was at a science summer camp when she said her teacher surprised her with the news that she won fourth place in a national investment essay contest.
She, her family and her teacher, Brenda Mash, were recognized in a balloon-filled ceremony, receiving large checks and recognition from the Virginia Council on Economic Education in early June.
The InvestWrite Essay Contest is a continuation of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association’s stock market game. The game gives students a hypothetical $100,000 to invest and create their own portfolios with real-time market data. Students are then invited to write an essay using what they learned in the game to submit to the competition. Mash encouraged her students to try, and Madeline says many kids were interested, but only two others in her class submitted essays.
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This year’s essay prompt asked students to summarize what they learned in The Stock Market Game and how it could help their future and that of others. It then asked what stocks, bonds, and mutual funds the students would invest $100,000 in and why.
Saya said she had to do her own research outside of the classroom to fully understand the topic.
As the deadline neared, she said she began to “panick,” according to her mother, Kristen.
However, the young student proved that she knows some things. The essay wowed the group, in part because of its ability to tell stories and wit. It opens with a story about beating the market in toilet paper stocks, a stock she chose because she said she “wanted to think of something comparable.”
In every writing assignment, she said she likes to add “at least one thing to make someone laugh,” because when she’s funny, “that makes it interesting,” she said. She also included a clever analogy comparing stock industries to eggs in a basket to explain diversification. To finish, she wrote: “As crazy as it sounds, we can all learn something from toilet paper!”
Her engaging writing and solid understanding of the market placed her first in the state and fourth in the nation for her age group, ahead of thousands of other students.
A Blacksburg Middle School student also won first place in the state for her age group in 2021, but Madeline, 11, is the first elementary school student and the first nationally ranked in the school system.
Madeline said that now that she has played the stock market game and written her essay, she wants to try investing in stocks.
As she said in the essay, “BUT (and there’s always a but),” this wasn’t the first time Saya placed highly in an essay contest. She also won first out of all girls at Falling Branch Elementary for a DARE essay contest, where she wrote a harrowing story about a student facing bullying, peer pressure and friends who smoke. In third grade, her poetry was selected in a national contest to be included in a textbook for elementary school students.
And she’s not done. Madeline said she’s still looking for one that doesn’t require her to write an entire novel, but she definitely wants to enter another contest. On why, she said: “I love it when I win them, but also when you write something and it just sounds so good and so perfect – it’s a good feeling.”
He also likes to write in his spare time. She has written poems and started some stories, but usually doesn’t finish the “big ones” unless they are for school. She said she occasionally writes short stories.
She says language arts is not her favorite subject. Prompts can be limiting, and besides, she said she’s much more interested in science.
She said she wanted to become an environmental engineer to protect the ocean.
But maybe one day she said she could write a book about it.
“I think it will be a good book,” she said.