Kennedy eighth grader wins essay contest


An eighth grader at John F. Kennedy Middle School is being recognized as the first place winner in Connecticut in the fall 2019 SIFMA Foundation’s InvestWrite competition. Zishan Ahmed and his teacher, Elizabeth Sterner, were surprised and honored on Friday, March 6 when representatives from the foundation visited the school.

In the competition, students are required to write an essay describing a dream they hope to achieve. Essays lay out a financial plan to pay for their dream with a pitch to a panel of virtual investors. Students are expected to identify stocks, bonds or mutual funds that could be included in a portfolio to grow their investors’ seed money to fulfill their dream.

According to a press release, Ahmed pitched a $90,000 investment plan to fund his dream to build schools in Africa and Southeast Asia. His broad knowledge of investing enabled him to climb to the top of the competition in the middle school division of the essay-writing contest in Connecticut. Essays are judged by thousands of financial professionals, volunteering their time to ensure that young people are exposed to the essentials of personal finance early in life.

“This dream is significant to me because, without education, society won’t function properly,” wrote Ahmed in his winning essay. “Without education, you cannot do calculations, read, or even understand others. For humans to work together cohesively, and efficiently, education is a must.”

Ahmed said providing education to others can help people be more independent and get higher-paying jobs to support their families, “which is why this goal is fundamental,” he wrote.


“Financial responsibilities are a given in life, but financial education is not,” said president of the SIFMA FouZishandation Melanie Mortimer in a press release. “That doesn’t add up for this country’s 57 million students like Zishan who are expected to compete in a global economy and manage their retirement.”

Mortimer said barriers for teachers must be reduced in order to bring financial education into the classroom and “provide real-world educational experiences that prepare students for financial independence, economic mobility and the workforce.”

Ahmed breaks down the costs in his essay that are required to build five schools in Africa and Southeast Asia, including costs for running water, textbooks, teacher support, land, and everything else in between. When all is said and done, his dream requires about $90,000.

To fund his dream, he described his long-term plan. Every month, for 10 years, he would put $500 into an investment account with an allocation of stocks, bonds and mutual funds. The project would place 80% of its assets in “blue chip stocks,” which he explains are large companies that are projected to give higher returns over extended periods of time.

Winning contest essays are chosen through rigorous judging by thousands of teachers and industry professionals who evaluate students’ understanding of long-term investing, diversification, the global capital markets, and factors that drive investments as well as their expression of investment ideas in essay form.

Since InvestWrite’s launch in 2004, 235,000 students have submitted essays. The SIFMA Foundation is dedicated to fostering knowledge and understanding of the financial markets for individuals of all backgrounds, with a focus on youth. Drawing on the involvement and expertise of educators and the financial industry, the SIFMA Foundation provides financial education programs and tools that strengthen economic opportunities across communities and increase individuals’ access to the benefits of the global marketplace.

To learn more about the foundation, visit

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