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Oliver Elementary School
students win big at Mathfest

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Azha Parker already knew what it felt like to win a state championship in the Georgia Stock Market competition.

She was one of the E.W. Oliver Elementary School students who won the championship in the fall 2007 stock market competition. On Saturday, she and Elizabeth Oluata, her new stock market teammate, were called up to the stage at the annual Mathfest competition and introduced as the champions of the spring 2008 competition.

Parker was giddy with delight as she and Oluata basked in the glow of their win.

"It feels even better than the first time, because I know that I can do something, and then do it again," Parker said.

In addition to Parker and Oluata taking the top spot, Oliver students also finished second, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth in the stock market competition. There were more than 3,500 teams from colleges, high schools and other elementary schools participating in the competition.

The game lasts 10 weeks, and is sponsored by the Georgia Council on Economic Education. Students begin with $100,000, and have to make as much money as possible. Students like Oluata and Parker often make money by selling short on stocks.

The winning duo turned their investment into $263,531.

The announcement that Oliver won seven of the top eight spots in the state came on a day when the school also won the Mathfest championships for kindergarten, second grade and third grade.

Oliver Elementary puts a high premium on math and science education, and is currently working to become a charter school that focuses on those academic areas.

"All of it is validation that we are headed in the right direction," said Dr. Ron Boykins, the school's principal. "This is not just the county, but the entire state."

Parker and Oluata almost didn't win the state stock market championship, though.

They were trailing two other Oliver students, fifth-grader Jordan Bennett and fourth-grader Nijah Bowman by $29,000 on March 27. Parker and Oluata had previously been leading the other teams in the state, but their stocks began to falter.

Boykins pulled the pair of fifth-graders out of class on Friday morning. He explained the situation to the students and asked them what they wanted to do. After about three hours of reviewing stocks on the New York Stock Exchange's web site, as well as other stock market web sites, Oluata came up with an idea.

Invest all of the team's money in a company known as the Radian Group, Inc., which the students refer to by RDN, its New York Stock Exchange symbol.

During the time when the pair was watching the market, the company went from 6.58 points, to 7.01 points. The team planned to sell short anyway, so Parker decided to go with her friend's gut feeling.

"It seemed like a really good stock to invest in," Oluata said. "We had to take a risk and put all of our money into that one."

The decision didn't look so good at first, though.

"We watched the stocks early in the afternoon and they were going down, and it was still going down in the middle of the afternoon," Boykins said. "Then, it had a late rush right before the market closed, and that put Elizabeth and Oluata over the top.

"I like the boldness of their decision," Boykins said. "They said 'We're already in the second place, so we might as well go all or nothing.' That's what the stock market is all about."

Meanwhile, Oliver students Darcey Bennett, Jayla Brown, Kendell Shivers, Jenessa Davis and Joshua Pachall were co-champions of the kindergarten competition at Mathfest. The school also had Mathfest champions in Paige Orphé (second grade) and Jaylen Holloway (third grade).