The national debt is complex as any topic students encounter in college, but five University of Arkansas - Fort Smith students have taken the lead to raise awareness of the debt as part of a nationwide initiative.
UAFS was named one of 44 finalists for “Up to Us” a program sponsored by the Clinton Global Initiative University that challenges college campuses across America to educate university students on the debt and its impact on their lives. UAFS was the only institution in Arkansas to be selected for the competition.
A five-student group on campus spearheaded the effort, led by Kayley Corley of Booneville and Antonio Jones of Fort Smith, and also including Joni Fields-Adams of Fort Smith, Jacob Hollomon of Fort Smith and Kory Reed of Morrow.
The non-partisan challenge tasks teams from competing universities to develop a campaign raising awareness of America’s mounting debt through social media and on-campus events, with a cash prize of $10,000 given to the winning university.
Jones, who interns with the UAFS chapter of the American Democracy Project, was encouraged to participate in the program after seeing his generation show indifference towards the important issue.
“I just see the influence it has over peoples’ lives and the lack of interest that people have in it,” Jones said. “The debt affects where you go to school, how much you pay in taxes, how much you get paid and where you live. And if people paid attention to it, they can decide if they want to change it.”
The campaign’s kickoff occurred Feb. 4, when Jones and Corley engaged with UAFS students in the Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center to discuss the debt. The group also planned two more events in February to raise awareness, including My Two Cents Day and Casino Night.
Jones said he hoped the events engaged the student body and will spur them to take action.
“We tried to connect the problem to their lives and how it’s going to affect them,” he said. “With something as dull as the national debt, you have to make it exciting or fun, something to get them in the room and then tell them how it’s going to affect their lives.”
A panel of judges are currently reviewing each school’s campaign to determine a winner, and the winning team will travel to the Clinton Conference at the University of Miami, where they will meet former President Bill Clinton and former First Lady Hillary Clinton, participate in workshops and present their campaign to attendees.
The prizes are alluring, but the UAFS team is simply grateful for the chance to participate in the initiative.
“Every team really gets a lot out of the competition, and even though the grand prize is something that we’re striving for, just being in the competition is something we’re really grateful to have the opportunity to do,” Corley said.
The competition is also sponsored by Net Impact, a nonprofit empowering students and professional leaders, as well as the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. For more information, visit http://www.itsuptous.org.