Mihaylo Students Compete to Increase Campus Awareness on U.S. Debt Crisis

The five students who will represent Cal State Fullerton in the national Up To Us competition. From left: Bita Kianian, Sakshi Walia, Aaron Mendez, Janet Perez and Kelsey Brewer.

Thanks to five Cal State Fullerton students, including several Mihaylo undergraduates, Cal State Fullerton will be involved in a one-month campaign to raise awareness on the U.S. national debt. Although the idea of the campaign is simple, it is also significant.

Kelsey Brewer ’16 (political science), Bita Kianian ’13 (economics), Aaron Mendez ’13 (economics), Janet Perez ’14 (political science) and Sakshi Walia ’17 (economics and finance) are competing in Up to Us, a nationwide campus contest requiring college teams to educate and engage their peers on America’s fiscal problems. The aim of the competition is not to have students endorse any particular solution but to simply raise awareness on the long-term debt and how it will affect the younger generations.

The campaign will begin at the start of the spring 2014 semester, and the five students represent the only team competing from a Cal State campus against 24 other teams at universities such as Duke, UC Berkeley , New York University and UC Irvine. Among the requirements for the competition, the five undergraduates will host events, engage the community, utilize social media and generally raise public visibility and attention on issues surrounding the national debt.

“It’s great that people our age across the nation care,” says Kianian. “Our goal is to reach at least a thousand students through the campaign.”

The team will have roughly one month, starting the week of January 27, to begin their campaign and engage as many students as possible. There will be panel discussions with experts and notable speakers, including an event that will host U.S. Rep. Ed Royce, who will offer his own perspective on the issue.

The 25 teams competing will be judged on the total number of students engaged in the month-long competition, the overall creativity of their campaign, extended research, how well the guidelines were followed and, of course, the teams’ success in building awareness of the debt and how it affects the future for young people.

“Not only will students learn about even the smallest of the smallest actions that affect our federal debt, but they will also learn about the different ways we can start to help diminish our debt,” Walia says.

The winning team will earn more than just a title: First-place honors include a $10,000 cash prize and the opportunity to be recognized at the Clinton Global Initiative in March of 2014. As stated on the Up to Us website, a diverse panel of prominent business, political and media leaders will be judging the competition and selecting the winners.

Five additional teams who excel in different areas, such as civic engagement and social media, will receive secondary prizes and be invited to attend the Clinton Global Initiative.

“Our team was so excited when we heard that five more teams have the opportunity to meet President Clinton at the Global Initiative,” says Walia. “We knew we had a much better chance.”

The first planned activity is “What the Debt,” an interview event that will be ongoing throughout the first two weeks of the competition.

The team will also present a documentary and panel discussion to generate a discussion about the debt. After viewing the film, a panel of experts will answer questions from a moderator, audience members and Twitter and Facebook. Various other events and activities are planned, and the group will be judged on the success of each event as well as how successfully they shared, engaged and educated their peers at Cal State Fullerton. The team is also looking for volunteers, clubs and other organizations interested in sharing information regarding the nation’s debt and its adverse affects on the younger generations.

Walia says that the closing event is what she is most looking forward to – it will be similar to Discoverfest , with many clubs discussing the issues at hand.

“To close off the event, we are very excited to give away prizes, such as iPads,” she adds.

For more details on the competition visit the Up to Us website. For exact times and locations for all of the events that will be hosted by the Cal State Fullerton team, check their Facebook page.

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