On Thursday morning, members of the Rhodes Elementary School community gathered together for a celebration of one of their own.
The only catch: No one knew who was being celebrated, or why, at least not right away. The surprise event had students and staff alike wondering what the big announcement would be.
“We are honoring one of our friends today for something very special,” said Principal Erica Stackhouse, giving the students just one small clue as she made mention of fifth-grade teacher James Gemma having gone to get a very special guest.
As Gemma returned to the room, he brought with him Liz Riedel from the SIMFA Foundation, who has made the annual trek to Rhodes for several years in order to announce the first-place winner in the SIMFA Foundation’s InvestWrite essay competition with McGraw Hill Financial.
Each year for the past 10 years, Gemma’s fifth-grade class participates in the Stock Market Game in the fall. The essay competition is the culminating activity, which challenges the students to apply what they’ve learned about finances and savings by writing an essay on an investment topic. Each year, for many years running, Gemma’s class produces the Rhode Island state winner in the elementary division.
As she always does, Riedel alluded to this year’s winner, describing the student and reading several quotes from the winning essay. It was then from his spot in the audience, surrounded by his peers, that Clyde Boutier realized that he was hearing some very familiar things.
“When she said ‘L.A.,’ I knew it was me,” Boutier said, referring to the fact that Riedel mentioned that this year’s winner has lived in many places, including Los Angeles, Calif., New York City, and Albuquerque, N.M.
Riedel went on to describe Boutier, utilizing some of the descriptive terms that had been given to her by his teachers and family members, such as “hard working, eager to please, well-traveled, a sports fan and baseball player.”
This year’s essay prompt asked the students to write a letter to a friend, giving them investment advice based on all the students had learned about finances. Boutier was one of 8,140 students across the country to enter the contest, 2,953 of them at the elementary level. Of those, 975 made it to the finals, with Boutier taking the top spot for Rhode Island.
“This year’s winner advised their friend to invest their money in stocks, which have the potential to gain a significant amount of money,” Riedel said. “They explained that starting at a young age and investing in stocks for 10 to 20 years will give the money time to grow, whereas starting at a later age does not give the money as much time to grow. This person also recommended investing in the Go Pro stock, noting that it had increased by 60 percent already, and was still growing.”
Boutier’s parents, Scott and Maria, and several extended family members were present when his name was announced to the audience of his peers, and were very proud of his accomplishment.
“He really worked hard on his revision and his aunt Michele [Henkel] helped him with his revisions,” Maria Boutier said. “He’s a big athlete, not as big a writer, so having a program like this that got him excited and involved with writing was wonderful.”
Maria said that keeping the secret for two weeks was fun, but not an easy task, especially on the morning of the big event.
Boutier received a trophy and American Express gift card along with a balloon bouquet, and will be honored at a ceremony in Newport later this year. Gemma also received a certificate of recognition for his role in the program.