June 10, 2019
Read time : 6 min

In this blog series we are highlighting our 2018-2019 Up to Us Competition top 5 finalists! 
These emerging leaders are passionate millennials who care about our country's fiscal future and are brave enough to tackle a complex topic like the long-term national debt through creative bipartisan activities. 

In this blog, you will learn about the Oakland University Up to Us team who created a year of fun, innovative, and engaging events to inspire millennials to care about our fiscal future:

The Oakland University team included Trevonte Gibson, Joseph Javier, Hannah Minette, Armando Vega Ramirez, Ryan Schab, Jacob Yestrepsky, and Devin Wantuck-Schwartz. Team leader, Nathan Pigott led these inspiring members throughout their monumental year of action. 

To kick off their campaign, the team tabled during the university’s Welcome Week and the Student Organization Showcase Week. One creative idea they had was to have students sign a freedom board and giant beach ball to visually represent inflation related to the national debt. “We knew that these partnerships would be the perfect way of disseminating our message to as many students as possible while showing that concern about the national debt is cool,” explains Nathan. 

Oakland University's Up to Us team's fiscally fit group.
The team encourages their peers to become “fiscally fit.”

The team used the slogan “physically fit” throughout the year as an innovative way of starting conversations about the national debt. After catching the attention of students with exciting events, it opened the doors to get their peers interested in becoming “Fiscally Fit” through exercising the right to vote and strengthening their knowledge about the key drivers behind the growing debt. The team even set up a miniature boot camp run by U.S. Marines where students could test their “physical fitness.” Next students visited the Up to Us booth for a “FISCAL FITNESS” test with small-group discussions on America’s fiscal future. 

Oakland University's Up to Us team's MTCD event.
The National Debt Awareness parade for MTCD.

Nathan and his team kept their fun energy for My Two Cents Day (MTCD) with events including a campus-wide volleyball tournament and a National Debt Awareness parade with team members dressed in brightly colored mascot costumes. Other teammates blasted social media to promote events, drive peers to their website, and encourage students to join an essay writing competition on why the national debt matters to millenials. 

The team declared November as “National Debt Awareness Month” at Oakland University for their Wildcard Event. They planned at least 2 events per week to raise awareness and capitalize on their “Fiscal Fitness” theme. They had stories posted in the local newspaper and radio ads playing on an hourly basis throughout November announcing the events and sharing trivia about the nation’s debt problem. “Our Wildcard at Oakland University was a successful month-long integrated campaign that helped students get “Fiscally Fit” – becoming civically active, exercising their right to vote for candidates/issues that affect the national debt, strengthening knowledge and proficiency of the key terms and challenges surrounding our fiscal future, and all the while doing so in a fun, competitive and educational combination of activities to engage our diverse campus body,” says Nathan. 

Oakland University's Up to Us team's voter drive.
Team members encourage their peers to exercise their right to vote.

Their first live event was at a CAPA student diversity showcase which highlighted different cultural student organizations from the tri-county area. A Michigan senator, congressman, mayor, and 2 state representatives all spoke covering several fiscal responsibility topics. Nathan and his team helped their peers exercise their right to vote by getting students registered and organizing school buses to drive students to voting precincts and then back to their dorms. As their finale for the month, they held the Ultimate “Fiscal Fitness” Challenge where representatives from the school’s fraternities and sororities squared off in a test of fiscal knowledge in front of the student body.  

“By presenting real data with exciting activities in a way that music majors, nursing students, math majors and political science students alike could relate to, we got the whole campus talking about why the national debt matters to them.” - Nathan Pigott, Oakland University Up to Us team leader.

We are so proud of what the Oakland University team, and all of the Up to Us Competition teams, accomplished this year!