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In the end, 6th grader Griffin Kovar decided to “trust his gut.” And his gut proved right, after Griffin captured the top honors in The 2021-22 Stock Market Game, a nationally renowned competition for students in middle and high school and college, run by SIFMA (Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association). Competing against over 500 Middle School students, Griffin’s portfolio finished #1 in the Middle School division across Long Island.

Patricia Catalano, the teacher of Friends Academy’s inaugural afterschool enrichment program, Dollars and Sense, encouraged her students to “Buy what you are interested in, because you will research it more thoroughly and follow the stock closely.”

In addition to Griffin’s top spot win, the Friends Academy Middle School team (both fall and spring groups) finished in 12th place overall in New York State against all schools, which included high schools and community colleges. In addition to Griffin, three other students – Ben Cohen, Colin Trust, and Teddy Dorego – made the top 10 on Long Island.

In Dollars and Sense, which was open to 5th through 8th grade, students learned basic financial literacy, as well as an overview of the stock market. “We met weekly and each student was given an account,” explained Catalano. “Each week the students received instruction, including a real-time overview of what was happening in the market.” Catalano rounded out the course with in-depth instruction on two to three core topics during each lesson, including diversification, how to read a balance sheet, dividends, compound and simple interest, how to evaluate a financial annual report, and a comparison of stocks vs. bonds.


Run by SIFMA, The Stock Market Game uses NYSE systems, which simulate the environment of real-time investing and trading. Students start with a virtual $100K, begin investing in early October, and must abide by the game rules of buying and selling stocks.

“It’s high level and once a week,” shared Catalano, who taught a class of 25 in the fall and 10 this spring. “I also respond to what is going on in the market that week and guide students through a specific case study for the semester.” This spring, students looked at the financials of Elon Musk, Tesla, and now Twitter. In the fall, Catalano introduced her class to the metaverse – an alternate universe being created by Facebook/Meta, in which everything is entirely virtual. “Meta hired 10,000 people in Europe to create it,” she remarked.

A financial industry professional with over 35 years experience, Catalano has taught financial literacy at the elementary school level since 2014. Prior to that, she accumulated a broad background working around the world for stock markets, clearing corporations, depositories, brokers, banks and investment banks. Her areas of expertise include marketing, business and systems development, operations, corporate strategy, senior management, and she is a frequent industry speaker as an expert on global and domestic market infrastructure.

At Friends, Catalano is also the advisor to two Upper School clubs – the Stock Market Club and the Venture Capital Club. This summer, she is excited to offer a new course in the Upper School in partnership with The Wharton School of Business. The Wharton Global Youth Program starts on June 1st and continues through the summer and fall semester until mid December. “Students will get a real-world person with a real portfolio, with interests and challenges. For example, someone interested in medical devices who is trying to put two children through college. In this program, it won’t be about how much money they make, but how they present their process for developing the investments for the portfolio,” said Catalano.

One consistent theme that Catalano threads through everything she teaches is the importance of ethics. “The last unit I teach is on ethics and that is the most important thing I can teach my students. I tell them, ‘There are no shortcuts.’ When you are working in the financial industry, making investments, and handling your own and your clients' money, doing the right thing is the most important thing.”

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