Students race for debt awareness

Michael Melchionan 
Contributing Writer 

A team of five students from VCU will compete nationally for $10,000 in the second annual “Up To Us” campaign to engage and raise awareness about the long-term effects of a growing national debt.

The team from VCU is one of  25 national finalists selected to compete in the contest.

Athalia Markowitz, Net Impact’s manager of the Up To Us campaign, said she recognized the potential young people have to impact their own financial futures.

“The national debt is a hot topic in the news, among economists and with politicians, but one group has largely been left out of the conversation, young people,” Markowitz said.

She also said the youth of today will be the ones to experience the hardship of debt problems later in life.

“We’re not talking about effects of the debt in the next year, or even 10 years, but rather potential consequences of the long-term debt over the next two to three decades,” Markowitz said.

The campaign is sponsored by the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, Clinton Global Initiative University, and Net Impact, three nonpartisan and nonprofit organizations.

“These students are among America’s best and brightest and they have an important voice in the conversation about our nation’s fiscal future,” said Pete Peterson, founder and Chairman of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation.

With the federal government shutdown and congressional votes to raise the debt limit just behind us, it is a critical time for these students to raise awareness about a potential future crisis.

“After all, it’s their generation that will be affected by decisions we make, or fail to make, about our long-term debt,” Peterson said

Markowitz said the names of the VCU students involved are being kept under wraps for “training and consent” purposes.

The winners of the campaign, which takes place at campuses nationwide including VCU, will be picked in March.

Winning teams will receive $10,000, along with special $2,500 prizes awarded to teams for special achievements in civic engagement and social media. In addition to the cash prizes, winning teams will be formally announced by former president Bill Clinton and receive guaranteed interviews for certain summer internship programs.

“I’m confident that the teams will advance great ideas and I look forward to hearing them,”
Peterson said.

Last year’s winners were from the University of Virginia, but Liz Maw, chief executive officer of Net Impact, one of the event’s sponsors, said she thinks this year can be even better.

“I’m excited to see how these students can build on last year’s creative campaigns,” Maw said.

The VCU team leader and other core members will be announced after the Net Impact Conference taking place from Oct. 24-26, where they will be given details about the campaign.

Winners will be selected by a panel of judges who access the campus campaigns by the number of students engaged, attendance and success of events such as public speakers, panels or rallies. Other campaign activities like social media presence, public visibility in traditional media sources and civic engagement are also taken into consideration.

Each team will receive $2,000 to fund their 4-6 week campaigns.

“Instead of standing on the sidelines, students are stepping up to engage their generation in this critical issue that affects their futures,” Maw said.

Clinton has expressed profound interest in the growing debt and our need to find and engage these future leaders, whose work now may be key to inspiring future solutions.

“They represent the next generation of leaders who have the ideas and resolve to face one of our nation’s biggest challenges,” Clinton said in a press release.

From November until January, the VCU team will organize and launch their plan with hopes of capturing the attention of the student body and the attention of the judges if they want to win the $10,000 prize.

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