Township 8th Grader Places First In National Financial Essay Writing Contest

Franklin Middle School 8th Grader Emily Lopez won a state and national financial essay writing contest. To her right is family friend James Malwitz, who inspired her choice of a non-profit organization to spotlight in her essay.

A township 8th Grader’s essay on money management for a non-profit organization won her first place in a state and national competition.

Emily Lopez had no idea that she’d won, up until the point when her name was called out in the Franklin Middle School library in a surprise ceremony on March 13. She was surrounded by her classmates, who burst into cheers and applause when she was named the winner, and joined by her parents and other family members, who were hiding among the library’s stacks.

“It’s kind of unbelievable,” she said later. “I didn’t think I was going to win.”

The essay was entered into the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) Foundation’s InvestWrite essay competition, the culminating activity in the organization’s Stock Market Game. Lopez won in the middle school category.

Lopez’s win marks the fourth time an FMS student has won the state competition and placed nationally in the past several years, although no other FMS student has placed higher than 4th.

With the win, Lopez received a state and national trophy, a medal, a gift certificate and she will be taken on a three-day trip to New York City.

She also won a pizza party for her class.

In her essay, Lopez described how she would manage money for an organization similar to the Wounded Warrior Project, a group whose mission is to “honor and empower” service members wounded after Sept. 11, 2001. Lopez’s plan was to park 20 percent of the organization’s assets in an interest-bearing savings account, 30 percent in large cap stocks such as Apple, 10 percent in indexed mutual funds such as the S&P 600, 20 percent in a money market fund and 20 percent in a bond fund.

Lopez said she picked large cap stocks “because they’re really low-risk.” She said her choice of the S&P 600 was spurred by the recent federal tax legislation, which she predicts would raise the index’s value.

Lopez picked the Wounded Warrior Project because of a family friend, Newark resident James Malwitz, a major in the U.S. Army Reserve and a twice-wounded Iraq war veteran. Malwaitz is also a brain cancer survivor.

“James inspired me,” Lopez said. “I learned how he had been to Iraq and the brain tumor, and how he never stopped. He risked his life for other people.”

“I wanted to honor other people like that who were less fortunate, and who got injured in war,” she said. “So I picked Wounded Warriors because they help fill in the gaps in government care. They are a non profit organization that tried to help these people, they didn’t forget about them after they couldn’t serve anymore. I really wanted to be for them, try to speak for them.”

Malwitz, a 22-year Army veteran, said that when he read Lopez’s essay, “I became a little emotional.”

“I’m just super proud of her,” he said. “She speaks with an eloquence that’s beyond her years. I know she’s gong to go far.”

“When I look around his room, when you cross the line and enter basic training in the Army, there are three words you see, Victory Starts Here,” he said. “I look across this room and I see that.”

Lopez’s essay was a “phenomenal example” of a student applying what they learned during the Stock Market Game, said Melanie Mortimor, the SIFMA Foundation’s president.

“It enabled her to showcase her compassion, her passion for the community and in making the world a better place, as well as her expertise in what she learned about stocks, bonds, mutual funds and the capital markets in the stock market game, and then more importantly how she can take what she learned and actually apply it to a hypothetical situation with real world validity and enormous intelligence  that would rival what an advisor in t the real marketplace would put on the table,” she said. “We were so moved by what she was able to do.”

Nicholas Solomon, the FMS principal, said he was proud of his student.

“This is amazing,” he said. “These kids time and time again come up with creative things to do and excel at them. We’re blessed. We’ve got a wonderful school, great things keep happening for us because we have amazing kids.”

Schools Superintendent John Ravally was also on hand to congratulate Lopez.

“We are so proud of Emily on this achievement,” he said. “It is wonderful to see our Franklin Middle School students being recognized on a state and national level.”

“Emily’s success and the participation of her classmates in these type of competitions are just a sample of the many positive things that our schools offer,” Ravally said. “Congratulations to her advisor, Ms. Deborah Gadek, on her hard work with this program as well.”

Gadek said that she’d predicted this win at the beginning of the school year.

“I said we’re going to be first in the nation, and we are,” Gadek said.

“This is my fourth win, but my best win,” she said. “She worked so hard on this essay. The first time I read it, you could feel her in the essay, her heart was there.”

“She wrote six pages about this gentleman (Malwitz), and how important it is to support our veterans,” Gadek said. “And these days, with all the controversy around the military, it’s a risk for a kid to come out like this. That’s why I’m so proud of her.”

Lopez’s mother, Julieth Orjuella, said her daughter is “a real hard worker.”

“I am very proud of her, and I know that she is going to be very successful because at her age, she is hard-working and she’s passionate,” she said. “She doesn’t care if something is a little hard, she pushes herself into it, and she’s hard on herself. She wants to succeed and she wants to get an A, and she’s willing to put the work into it. So as a Mom, what more can I ask for?”

“She has a really great family behind her, so that’s really the whole package,” Orjuella said.

Marco Lopez, Emily’s step-father, said he cried the day received an email telling them that she’s won.

“I’m really proud of her,” he said. “She’s an excellent soccer player, she’s always in honor classes. On point on everything. We’re really proud of her.”


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