The Grasp Academy team in front of a banner congratulating them on their top prize

GRASP Academy students win first place in national stock market challenge

June 3, 2022 – For one group of math-minded GRASP Academy students, the numbers tell an incredible story: out of 7,000 middle and high school students competing in a national competition over the course of 14 weeks, they took the number one spot.

But students on the school’s winning Capitol Hill Challenge (CHC) team will tell you the ride to the top wasn’t always smooth sailing.

“You could be in first place, and then drop to like 27th,” says student Ivy Smith. “We were like in 7th place one time, and then we were in the forties.”

Despite the ups and downs, they excelled, becoming the only Florida team to make it into CHC’s top 10 teams. It’s a feat especially gratifying knowing that GRASP specifically serves students who show the signs of dyslexia, dysgraphia; and dyscalculia. These are learning difficulties that affect reading, writing, and arithmetic skills respectively.

“I feel like if anything, it helped me more,” says student John Hoyos. “Because it’s not really a disability. It’s just a different way of thinking about things and learning.”

“In 18 years of teaching, I’ve never seen any children with better math instincts in the higher algorithms,” says math teacher M. Samuel Folsom, who served as the financial advisor for the GRASP Academy team.

The Capitol Hill Challenge – which is part of the SMIFA Foundation’s Stock Market Game and is underwritten by the Charles Schwab Foundation  – encourages students to learn about the stock market and investing by managing a hypothetical $100,000 portfolio. The competition is free of charge, and is offered to schools on an invitation basis.

Teams are made up of middle and high school students representing every U.S. congressional district. GRASP’s matching lawmaker was U.S. Representative Al Lawson (FL –05).

According to a news release from the foundation, students begin by learning “the fundamentals of capital markets and investing.”

“They don’t know anything about corporate America, and they don’t know anything about companies that trade publicly,” says Folsom. “So we start with what is a stock…and then build from there. And once they learn that what a stock is, I teach them how to make a trade.”

From there, the foundation states that students apply their knowledge by “managing diversified portfolios of stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and cash.” The team that produces the highest-ranking portfolio, while also abiding by the program’s rules and conditions, wins.

Folsom says one key to the team’s success was in their ability to “think like investors” — particularly when they learned to incorporate real-world events into their investment strategies.

“One example I can think of is, whenever the war in the Ukraine broke out, one of the exports that they were limiting to coming out of Ukraine was coal,” says Folsom. “And so, a student got the idea, ‘Well, let me go and look at mining companies.’ And he found a very obscure mining company located in Appalachia. And they bought shares in it. Turns out that was their biggest mover within their portfolio.”

Students like Pyper Clemons say they’re thrilled to not only represent GRASP and Team Duval on the national stage, but they’re also excited to walk away with valuable, life-long skills.

“Before this, I wanted to be an artist,” she says. “But now after winning, I have realized I’m much better at math skills than I thought, and I enjoy earning money from the stocks we picked. I will now be thinking more carefully about how I spend my money.”

The top 10 teams will be recognized in a virtual awards ceremony on June 14. To learn more about the Capitol Hill Challenge, visit:

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