Students from Mesa Community College Win Top Prize in Eighth Annual "Up to Us" National Campus Competition

May 28, 2020
Julie Walsh
(202) 518-6489
Mesa Community College designs winning campaign to engage Millennial and Gen Z students on the rising $25 trillion national debt

WASHINGTON, D.C. — As Americans grapple with the ongoing public health and economic crisis, students from Mesa Community College (MCC) in Arizona were recognized today for their innovative campaign to raise awareness and engagement on America’s growing fiscal challenges. MCC’s student team won the eighth annual Campus Competition held by Up to Us, the nonpartisan national initiative focused on building a sustainable economic and fiscal future for America.

In addition to receiving a $10,000 cash prize, campus leaders from MCC’s winning team will join students from other top teams for a series of three virtual events where they will be recognized and hear from speakers including Michael A. Peterson, CEO of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, and Sheila Bair, the 19th Chair of the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

“As we confront our nation’s overall fiscal sustainability challenges, as well as all of the fiscal and economic impacts of this current crisis, it is clear that young leaders like these students from Mesa Community College will have a critically important voice in helping restore and build a vibrant economy of the future,” said Michael A. Peterson. “The innovative campaigns created as part of this year’s Up to Us Competition can inspire leaders to re-focus on national preparedness across a range of key areas impacting the next generation, including our fiscal outlook.”

The team from MCC, led by Shelby Lynch ‘20, developed an innovative and multi-faceted campaign to raise awareness about the national debt and generate dialogue on building a sustainable economic future for all Americans. The team was able to engage more than 50 percent of their fellow students on campus during the fall 2019 semester through targeted events, awareness surveys, classroom presentations, campus partnerships, and creative social media content.

“My teammates and I joined the Up to Us Campus Competition to spark a dialogue on campus about the very real consequences that the national debt could have on our future, and the importance of fiscal sustainability,” said Lynch. “Every event and activation we developed aimed to make the national debt more relatable to members of our generation by incorporating activities that appeal to our peers — including games, interactive tabling activities, nonpartisan political parody, and social media sharing.”

The MCC team’s imaginative, student-oriented events included a Halloween-themed “National Debt House of Horrors” that introduced students to “scary” facts about the national debt through collaborations with campus clubs and departments, and a national debt trivia event in partnership with a political science professor. Lynch and her team also produced and performed a satirical skit that imagined the world in 2032 if the nation’s debt continues to skyrocket, followed by a discussion about the potential consequences for young people. In addition to students, the team engaged college administrators in an event that invited students and staff to join deans and department heads for a one-mile walk around campus during which they raised visibility by carrying posters, chanting, and distributing informative materials about the national debt. The walk was followed by a guided discussion on the significance of the national debt.

The finalists and winner of the 2019-2020 Campus Competition were determined by their ability to engage their peers, use of creative strategies, earned and social media efforts, and overall impact of their campaigns.

In addition to MCC, the top twenty 2019-2020 Up to Us Campus Competition finalists, all of which executed campaigns during the fall 2019 semester, include:

Baruch College

Bergen Community College

Central Texas College

College of Mount Saint Vincent

Concordia College

Gateway Community College

Jarvis Christian College

Manchester University

Miami Dade College, Homestead Campus

Miami Dade College, Padron Campus

Northeastern Illinois University

Oklahoma Christian University

Texas State University

University of California, Davis

University of Colorado, Colorado Springs

Wells College

West Liberty University

Worcester State University

Yale University

Up to Us Campus Competition teams participating during the spring 2020 semester were not officially judged due to campus closures related to Covid-19, but many found innovative ways to engage their peers virtually while adjusting messaging to address how the public health crisis has impacted the economy. These participating spring teams employed creative and adaptive strategies to inspire engagement and discussion on the nation’s fiscal trajectory, including virtual classroom presentations, guest speaker videos, social media challenges, and interactive live video sessions.

To learn more about Up to Us and about how to get involved in the movement, visit

About Up to Us
Up to Us is a movement of a generation, for a generation that lets policymakers know that young Americans are committed to addressing the nation’s fiscal challenges. Since 2012, Up to Us has created a groundswell of student leaders who’ve engaged and empowered more than 370,000 of their peers towards a more prosperous fiscal future. Created in partnership with the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) and Net Impact, Up to Us provides the opportunity for students to build a movement to raise awareness and engagement on America’s fiscal challenges, and hosts an annual competition that takes place on college campuses nationwide.

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