St. Margaret student takes top prize in national financial literacy competition


RUMFORD — St. Margaret School recently celebrated an exciting occasion when one of its students was named first-place champion in a national academic competition. Malayna Bizier, a seventh grade student, claimed the top spot in the InvestWrite competition, a national essay contest created to promote financial literacy and knowledge of investing among elementary, middle and high school students nationwide.

The competition is sponsored by the SIFMA Foundation, an organization dedicated to fostering knowledge and understanding of the financial markets in students and individuals of all backgrounds. Competitors demonstrate their knowledge of investing by responding to a real-world problem posed in an essay prompt. In this year’s prompt, students were asked to develop a retirement plan for a professional athlete.

“The goal is to teach students the importance of saving and investing at an early age,” said Elizabeth Reidel, national director of the SIFMA Foundation.

Malayna first became involved with the competition through her participation in the Stock Market Game, a classroom tool also sponsored by the foundation. In the game, student teams are given $100,000 in virtual “cash” and must manage their own investment portfolio.

“I like that anything can happen and it’s interesting how different stocks rise and fall,” said Malayna.

She learned of her national champion title during a surprise reception in the St. Margaret School cafeteria on Monday, June 5. Reidel presented Malayna with a trophy and medal, as well as a banner for the school, while her parents, Paula and Michael Bizier, emerged from a back room where they had been hiding as the presentation began. Malayna said afterward she had no idea that she was an award winner and only became suspicious when she saw the trophy and flowers.

“My mom is a good liar and she lied and said that if I saw her at the school, she had a thing going on,” she said.

Laura Doliber, a seventh and eighth grade math and social studies teacher, integrates the Stock Market Game into her curriculum and oversees the InvestWrite competition for the school. She said the program teaches practical skills to her students and offers a hands-on approach to financial literacy.

“I think it’s just good life skills. It teaches them at a young age about investing. Something I wish I’d known as a teenager,” she said.

Doliber has seen several students win the title of InvestWrite state champion over the years, including Malayna’s older sister, Maryssa. Malayna is the school’s first national champion.

“It gives them all a taste of finance and how to work with your money and make your money work for you,” said Doliber.

Though Malayna said she is not sure yet whether she would like to go into finance as a career, she and her sister already have a financial mentor in their mother, who works in the industry.

“I’m in finance so they ask me a lot of questions. We’ve talked about things over the years – what a stock is, what a bond is, what a mutual fund is,” said Paula.

She and her husband were presented with a plaque to commemorate the occasion. Paula emphasized that though she helped introduce her daughters to finance, Malayna put many hours into researching different investment options for her essay on her own.

“She did a lot of research for this thing. We have 529 [college savings] plans for them, so when she started this she said, ‘Mom, what was that college thing you have?’”

The Biziers noted that both of their daughters have always been dedicated to their studies and active in their school and local communities. Five years ago, the girls began the St. Margaret School Easter Meal Project, an annual community service project that has provided Easter meals to 86 families in need since 2012.

“When she gets on something, she’s so determined,” Michael said of Malayna.

The prize includes an all-expense paid trip to New York City to tour the New York Stock Exchange with fellow national winners. However, due to a conflict with another national academic competition, Malayna will be unable to attend. She and a partner placed first in their category in the state National History Day competition for their project on Medal of Honor recipient Desmond T. Doss and were scheduled to travel to the University of Maryland to compete at the national level this week.