A team of Earlham College students finished third out of more than 50 teams in the national Up to Us campus competition for the 2020-21 academic year.
Up to Us challenges emerging leaders at colleges and universities to develop campaigns that build awareness about the U.S. national debt and its impact on the nation’s economic and fiscal future.
“The national debt raised from $26 million to $28 million from the start to the end of our campaign,” said Bibi Mohammed, a rising senior from Guyana.
“The national debt is sometimes considered good because it’s what stimulates the economy, but when you pass a certain threshold, it can start meaning negative things for future generations,” she said. “We believe that it’s important to care about our fiscal future because it can impact our retirement, Social Security and healthcare.”
The team organized eight events that reached one-third of Earlham’s student body throughout the duration of the semester-long campaign. In addition to setting up informational booths at locations across campus, the team also organized a virtual trivia night, and a lecture from Mark Lautzenheiser, an associate professor of economics at Earlham.
The team said its most popular event was an awareness campaign that distributed 150 cupcakes to students during lunch in the campus dining hall. Each cupcake had the number 26 on it, representing the value of the national debt, in trillions, at the time of the event.
Baruch College finished first and the University of Delaware finished second in the competition. For finishing in the competition’s Top 10, Earlham’s team received a $1,000 cash prize and an invitation to attend the Up to Us National Summit this summer.
As a team composed entirely of international students, they were often questioned why they cared so much about the national debt. In addition to Mohammed, the team included Overpower Gore and Trevor Marimbire from Zimbabwe, Daryl Mifsud of Malta, and Salma Khalaf, a Palestinian who grew up primarily in Lebanon.
“For many of us on the team the United States is our home now and we plan to work here after graduation,” Khalaf said. “Even if we do go home, our national currency depends so much on the U.S. dollar, at least where I’m from.”
In addition to the team’s success in the competition, Gore also was successful in applying for the competition’s Civic Engagement Fellowship, which is worth $5,000. The fellowship will support his internship at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., this summer. He also earned a scholarship to enroll in an online business analytics course at the Harvard Business School.
Up to Us is a non-partisan organization and partners with Net Impact, Clinton Global Initiative University, and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.