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Investing in Hard Work Pays Off with Economics Award

First Michigan Student to Win National Essay Contest


When it comes to understanding the stock market, there’s a lot that goes into bulls and bears and highs and lows. When giving his two cents, though, senior Braden VanDyke says to take a blended approach with an “eye for the long run.”

As part of his AP economics class, Braden entered an essay in the InvestWrite portion of the Stock Market Game, earning him first prize in the competition. He is the first Michigan student to win the contest.

The essay competition complements the nonprofit SIFMA Foundation’s 40-year-old Stock Market Game, in which students are challenged to develop a successful investment portfolio by investing a virtual $100,000.

InvestWrite challenges students to write an essay using their newly acquired financial knowledge to address real-world issues in saving and investing. Judged online anonymously by industry professionals, Braden’s essay placed first among 3,000 high school entries.

Administrators and several SIFMA Foundation representatives, who came to Byron Center High School from New York, surprised Braden at a celebration assembly where students gathered to celebrate national titles and awards in athletics, arts and academics. He had no idea he had won.

“Braden’s understanding of a blended approach to investing is what made it so strong, as well as his analysis of why Facebook is a great long-term investment,” said Melanie Mortimer, SIFMA Foundation president.

Braden VanDyk learned he had won the InvestWrite competition during a school assembly
Braden VanDyk learned he had won the InvestWrite competition during a school assembly

On the Way to the Big Apple

The prizes: a pizza party for his class, a plaque, a trophy and a three-day, all-expenses paid trip to New York City in June with a parent and AP economics teacher Brian DeHaan, to tour Wall Street and the financialdistrict.

DeHaan has had students enter the Stock Market Game for the past five years. Another student placed seventh last year in the essay contest.

“Braden’s a pretty smart guy. You can tell he understands the concepts and materials in class,” DeHaan said. “I would expect if someone was to win, he would have been one of the kids to do it.”

Braden said he realized he was the winner when Mortimer started describing him on the microphone at the assembly. She mentioned his passion for the Pledge of Allegiance, which he says over the intercom every morning.

Braden said DeHaan inspired him to learn about investing in his economics classes for two years.

“If it wasn’t for my teacher’s enthusiasm, passion and energy, it would be hard to see that this is real life, that this small little Internet game, the Stock Market Game, really does have big implications in the real world,” Braden said. “And when you dig deeper and talk to different financial advisers, you see how deeply ingrained economics is and it’s really cool to see.”

It will be Braden’s first trip to New York. “It will be cool to see a new culture and lifestyle of America.”

The son of Deb and Jeff VanDyke, Braden plans to attend Hillsdale College to major in political science and economics. At Byron Center he is class president, National Honor Society president, and has been involved in Pride Pack, AUA Diversity, Debate Club, Environment Club and Government Club. He plays violin and is involved at Byron Center Bible Church.

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Byron Center High School senior Braden VanDyke receives his trophy, surrounded by Byron Center Public Schools representatives, his parents and members of the SIFMA Foundation
Byron Center High School senior Braden VanDyke receives his trophy, surrounded by Byron Center Public Schools representatives, his parents and members of the SIFMA Foundation

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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