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Holladay Journal

National essay winner from Skyline dreams of a better world for refugees

Jul 30, 2019 04:03PM ● By Heather Lawrence

Abby Bowler holds her first-place trophy for the Utah division of the InvestWrite essay contest. The trophy will be displayed permanently in the case at Skyline High. (Photo Utah Office of State Treasurer)

By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]

Abby Bowler of Skyline’s class of 2019 is the second-place national winner and first-place state winner of a financial literacy essay contest. The BYU-bound graduate wrote an essay detailing how she’d create the “Refugee Rescue Fund” and invest in services for refugees that would pay “long-term social and financial returns.” 

“I am excited to be a national winner, and I have to thank my financial literacy teacher, Syd Lott, who encouraged all of his students to participate in the contest,” Bowler said. Lott assigned his students to enter the InvestWrite contest. All the top three Utah winners were from Skyline: Bowler, Lucas Zagal and Angelina “Gigi” Skedros.

“We played a game in Mr. Lott’s class called the Stock Market Game, and the essay is a way to apply what you learned in the game. We were assigned to create an environmental, social and governance fund that was sustainable and ethical, and then write a letter to an investor explaining it,” Bowler said of the writing prompt.  

Bowler’s essay hypothetically encouraged big companies like Walmart and Starbucks to invest in refugee programs. 

“I chose them because they already had a reputation for hiring refugees and because their past quarter earnings had increased. I also used the ICRC Humanitarian Impact Bond because with bonds there’s basically no risk, so that balanced out the fund,” said Bowler, showing off her financial literacy skills. 

Her focus on refugee programs came from more than a year of real-life experience with three different nonprofits. “Last summer I organized a swim clinic for refugee kids in Salt Lake City. That was an idea I just came up with, and it was a really cool experience,” Bowler said. 

“In the spring I did an internship for the Spice Kitchen Incubator (751 W. 800 South in Salt Lake City). They’re a part of the International Rescue Committee. This summer I’m an intern for Youth Refugee Coalition. They partner with bigger organizations that work in refugee camps around the world. I loved my experiences working for these nonprofits,” said Bowler. 

Bowler said she’s learned a lot from her experiences. “I realized how much I love to work with these people. They’ve come from unimaginable backgrounds and have walked such a different path of life than my own,” Bowler said. 

Bowler found out about her win on graduation day when Lott pulled her aside and told her about both wins. “I had kind of forgotten about it because it was in March and there was so much going on, but I was definitely happy,” Bowler said. 

On June 25 Bowler and her parents and Lott were invited to the Utah Office of the State Treasurer at the State Capitol. They had a luncheon with Treasurer David Damschen, who praised their efforts. 

“The Stock Market Game and InvestWrite competitions pique student interest in important concepts taught in the classroom by adding an element of competition,” Damschen said. “I appreciate the incredible efforts of teachers and students to improve financial knowledge.”

Bowler’s own stock was up as her earnings for her essay included a cash prize of $100, a medal, a trophy that will go in the case at Skyline, “and I got a laptop, which was super awesome!” Bowler also received a starter pack for a 529 education fund.  

Bowler’s classmate and then Skyline sophomore Gigi Skedros won third place at the state level. Skedros designed an ESG fund called the PLANet B Fund. “PLANet B focuses on educating the consumer,” Skedros said. 

“I focused on solar energy because not only are those companies the most practical and sustainable methods of energy, they’re also growing a ton. In my research, I learned companies (stocks) like Facebook can be jumpy. But solar energy companies are growing steadily and will grow more in the future, so that’s what we need to invest in,” said Skedros. 

Skedros said she learned a lot from the class and the project. “I definitely recommend this class. I learned about the stock market and how to track companies and what I may want to invest in in the future,” Skedros said.