January 28, 2015
Read time : 4 min

What do cockroaches, chocolate chip caramel Oreo cookies, and Bill Clinton have in common? If you are an in-the-box thinker, I would imagine your answer is “nothing.” If you’ve participated in Up to Us, however, you know better.

Up to Us gives student leaders the opportunity to enrich their campuses, their communities and themselves in multidimensional ways. Throughout the competition, I constantly asked myself what my team could do that would have a real, lasting impact. In seeking our answer, we pursued the diversity of ideas, opportunities, and people that the competition gave access to.

At the Net Impact conference, I ate a cockroach… Whoops. Though totally unintentional, it served as my constant reminder that leaving my comfort zone is the way I grow next. NI14 introduced me to the friends who would surround and support me through the rest of the competition, through the start of my first job, and through personal milestones since.

The chocolate chip caramel Oreo cookies delivered by Northwestern Up to Us to students in the library (obviously included with facts on the national debt) brought to life the project management and creativity our team worked for. We got people involved in the Up to Us community and the educational movement by literally and figuratively meeting them where they were. By selflessly and creatively appealing to our “audience,” we engaged and energized athletes, 6th graders, opera majors, fraternity presidents, and many more.

At CGI U, I met people I connected with on a personal and professional level, exchanging ideas I have since implemented when moving to a new city. During this same weekend, a teammate learned about an internship in Cambodia he ultimately pursued. During this weekend, Up to Us leaders painted murals in community service. In reality, a selfie with President Bill Clinton was only a moment amidst months of opportunities Up to Us provided to enhance global perspectives.

Ultimately, Up to Us was a stretch of the brain, the heart, and the network… because my team and I allowed it to be. To future Up to Us students, I challenge you to seek out new people and new ideas — thinking outside the box may bring achievement beyond your expectations.