August 3, 2020
Read time : 9 min

What do you gain through involvement with Up to Us? In addition to access to world-class leaders, exclusive events, internships, training, and cash prizes, student leaders involved with Up to Us have the opportunity to develop and strengthen their leadership skills by planning, building, and executing a campus wide campaign to engage peers in a conversation about their generation’s fiscal future. Team leaders attend seminars and receive support from the Up to Us network, then work with a group of peers to put their learning into action. Several finalist team leaders shared their thoughts on participating in the 2019-2020 Campus Competition: 

“Leading the Up to Us campaign at my college has been one of the most complex, though rewarding, projects that I have ever been involved in. I am most proud of my team’s ability to adapt to the challenges that we faced throughout the campaign and the meaningful relationships we built with other student groups.” – Shelby Lynch, Mesa Community College, winning team of the Year 8 Up to Us Campus Competition 

“Up to Us has gifted me an experience that transcends the lessons learned in class and has prepared me for my next endeavor to combat social and civic issues. It has been a great privilege and honor being a team leader for Up to Us.” – Tenzin Kalden, Bergen Community College

“The Up to Us Campus Competition is not as much a competition as it is a collaborative effort to bring together one collective voice in the name of social change. By widening the lens on a student’s view beyond individual impact, we can achieve a stronger vision for all.” – Monica Maldonado, Gateway Community College 

Check out these six lessons in leadership from finalist team leaders in the Year 8 Up to Us Campus Competition.

Meet Students Where They Are 

“Outreach was very difficult at first, but once we had established solid campus partnership relationships, it was very rewarding.” – Dan Nguyen, Yale University 

Up to Us team leaders report great success from meeting students where they are, both ideologically and physically. Many successful teams developed targeted educational presentations customized for specific audiences, emphasizing different aspects of the national debt depending on their audience.  

Leveraging existing events and audiences is also a great way to reach and engage students. Many Year 8 finalist teams partnered with other campus groups to reach new and expanded audiences. Teams also leveraged popular campus events and tabled in highly trafficked areas of campus to engage peers in an initial dialogue about the national debt. Once students have been introduced to Up to Us and the issue of the national debt, it can be easier to convince them to get more involved or attend another event. 

Stay Flexible

“I learned how to be a confident leader and how to adapt to situations that are out of my control. This campaign really taught me how to view everything in a bigger picture and help guide people to that vision.” – Astrid Echegoyen, Texas State University 

Developing and implementing a public awareness campaign is an exercise in event planning, including many factors that may fall outside of your control. Team leaders learn to be flexible and adapt great event ideas to make them feasible and successful. Many team leaders report learning from early experiences and pivoting their campaign strategies as the semester continued or developing a creative solution to change course in response to an unexpected challenge.

Spring 2020 Up to Us teams experienced a crash course in adapting campaign strategy when college campuses closed due to COVID-19. Many teams still found innovative ways to engage their peers virtually while adjusting messaging to address how the coronavirus public health crisis has impacted the economy. This flexibility and strategic thinking helped to make their campaigns a success.

Value Diverse Perspectives 

“[Up to Us] has opened my eyes and helped me grow as a leader, giving me and my team the chance to show that as a whole we can come together and make the national debt something that people will pay more attention to.” – Elda Brianna Mayfield, Central Texas College 

Just as lawmakers must sometimes compromise to find solutions to complex fiscal issues, Up to Us team leaders learn to value diverse perspectives when engaging their peers in a respectful, nonpartisan dialogue about their generation’s fiscal future. Some of the best campaigns result from the synergy of perspectives and ideas from team members and other students on campus from different backgrounds. The national debt impacts republicans, democrats, and independents equally, so Up to Us team leaders learn how to spark dialogue to focus on solutions, not sides.   

Work Together

“One of the most important things I learned from being a team leader is how to motivate my team and tap into the skills of my teammates to bring out their best qualities.” – Rudolph Ballah, Manchester University 

Up to Us team leaders learn the value of delegating tasks to a team of peers and working together toward a common goal. From strategizing to event planning to marketing, every Up to Us team member brings a valuable skillset to the table, and team leaders learn how to motivate and harness these skills to accomplish a common goal.

Don’t underestimate incentives 

“There were moments throughout the campaign where it was difficult to get students’ attention about the importance of national debt because of the busy, college-student lifestyle…We fought this issue through incentives including gift cards and the pledge-taking club competition.” – Elizabeth Killough, Oklahoma Christian University 

Many Up to Us teams found success incentivizing students to get involved and learn more about the national debt. Incentives could be anything from pizza, t-shirt, or gift card giveaways for event attendees to a friendly cross-club competition to collect Up to Us pledges or otherwise engage with the issue of the national debt.

To learn more about how to get involved in the movement, or to register a team to participate in the  2020-2021 Campus Competition, visit