PATERSON, NJ - Sitting pertly before a turkey sandwich in a local eatery, wearing a white and pink shirt with the words “Dream” and “Believe” scrolled all over it, is one of Paterson’s hottest commodities - 10-year-old Shiqira Poulson.
A combination of brains and beauty, the precocious young scholar is testament to the success of her family’s motto, “Do what you gotta do, so you can do what you want to do.”
The fifth-grader has been grabbing the attention of her local teachers for some time. Last year she was one of three students selected from her school to attend Princeton’s summer medical program as part of the National Young Scholars Program.
But recently Shiqira took her talents to a new stage, one that can only be described as the big-time. The precocious Patersonian spoke at the SIFMA (Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association) 2012 Annual Conference at the New York Marriott Marquis on October 23. There, Shiqira shared the floor with the likes of Dr. Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, and other prominent names in the world of economics.
She was one of four youngsters from the tri-state area honored to speak at the event. And of the four, she was the only one to give two speeches, one in the afternoon and the second during the evening.
It all started last year when Shiqira’s fourth-grade team at the Urban Leadership Academy won the national Stock Market Game, which is sponsored by SIMFA, by earning the greatest profit from investing $200,000 in play money in stocks. The fifth grader said, “We diversified and invested in different companies so we’d have a better chance of winning and one of our stocks hit the home run!”
As a result of the win, Shiqira was selected by her teacher, Matt Franklin, and her principal to deliver the speech at the awards luncheon in June. “She gave a really nice speech, was really poised and articulate and apparently people noticed,” said Franklin, who has taught fourth grade math and social studies at Urban Leadership for 12 years.
Franklin recalled that after the luncheon “several adults came up and said she’d given the best speech of the day.” This was significant he continued, because, “They have an elementary, middle school, and high school division, so there were a number of speakers.” Based on this performance, he was not surprised when he was contacted with a request to have her speak at Tuesday’s event.
Shikira, on the other hand was shocked and elated when she learned of the news, her initial response was, “Wow, I can’t believe this is actually happening!”
"Good to see former students have this kind of success,’’ said Franklin. “I’m sure that whatever Shakira does in the future she will do well with that."
Preparation for the event was a family affair. Fortunately, with a grandfather who serves as a pastor at the Perth Amboy New AME Zion, oratorical skills come rather naturally to Shiqira.
Still, in the days leading up to the event, she practiced her speech at home for her little brother Xavier, who is in the first grade. Her mother, a pre-school teacher also named Shiqira, said that when she finished her final practice speech on Monday afternoon, he shot up and gave her his own speech. “She’s a role model for him. He models her a lot.” Mom also added, “He made her calm by telling her how well she did.”
And of course, one of her chief considerations was nerves. To make herself calm before the audience of hundreds she said, “I am going to think of my little brother.” Specifically, she said she would visualize, “the big hug he gave me when I did my speech for him.”