Fry Elementary student takes top honors in InvestWrite essay contest

NAPERVILLE — Fry Elementary School students are bullish when it comes to writing essays about the stock market. For the second year in a row, a Fry student won top honors in the national InvestWrite essay competition.

On Thursday at a surprise assembly, fifth-grader Katherine Smirnov was recognized for coming in first out of 2,000 entries from more than 200 elementary schools. A year ago, the essay from then fifth-grader Rachel Kelly won.

Principal Dave Younce said Fry is the only school in the United States to take first place in back-to-back years, and it is the top school in the state for producing winners.

Indian Prairie District 204 Superintendent Kathryn Birkett had high praises for the fifth-grader. “Katherine you represent the very best of what District 204 has to offer,” Birkett said.

The InvestWrite essay contest is the pinnacle of the Stock Market Game, a program that teaches economics and the understanding of financial markets to students in fourth through 12th grades. For the InvestWrite essay, students are asked to choose a publicly traded company and analyze the company to determine whether or not it will be a good investment for the future.

Katherine’s essay primarily focused on airplane manufacturer Boeing, which is headquartered in Chicago.

For her accomplishment, Katherine gets to take home a digital camera and a computer. Perhaps best of all, she won a pizza party for herself and classmates in teacher Sharon Phares’ Project Arrow class.

Although she was unable to attend the assembly in person on Thursday, state Rep. Darlene Senger, R-Naperville, introduced House Resolution 822 on Tuesday honoring Katherine’s accomplishment at the state level.

The InvestWrite essay competition is organized by SIFMA, a foundation which is dedicated to financial literacy and created the Stock Market Game for students.

Lisa Donnini, national director of InvestWrite, commended Phares and likened the teacher to a winning sports coach who is able to bring out the best in athletes.

“Teachers are the backbone of InvestWrite,” Donnini said. “Sharon is a phenomenal teacher.”

Younce said Phares’ winning record in the ranks her second in the country among teachers.

For her efforts, Phares received $750 toward professional development or a classroom gift. The school gets a big trophy to show off in a display case.

Thursday’s ceremony featured numerous special guests, including, representatives from the Indian Prairie School Board, local legislative districts and the City of Naperville.