REXBURG — Sunday Paul Adah and David Blomfield are not U.S. citizens, but that doesn’t keep them from dedicating their time and talents to spreading awareness about the U.S. national debt.
Adah and Blomfield are part of a team of Brigham Young University-Idaho students that participated this month in a nationwide campus competition that gives young adults a voice on fiscal matters and allows them to educate their peers about the national debt.
The team consists of Adah, of Nigeria; Blomfield, a British immigrant to Canada; Michael Phetvixay, of Thailand; Regina Ricks, of Canada; and Dylan McDowell and George Nelson, of the United States.
Blomfield, president of the BYU-Idaho Economics Society, said their team wants to focus on electing leaders who will use taxpayers’ funds wisely and intuitively.
He said the student Up to Us team doesn’t necessarily care who people vote for, “As long as you vote for someone who’s responsible.”
“We want to make a more efficient system,” he said.
This is the first time BYU-Idaho has participated in Up to Us.
For the competition the students had to plan educational activities for their peers. They had to get creative and come up with activities that would resonate with their audience.
“The campaign is supposed to be unique, and it’s supposed to be creative,” Adah said.
One of the activities the BYU-Idaho team put together was a national debt-themed game of Pictionary. During the activity, they discussed various ideas related to the national debt and asked questions like, “When is it OK for the government to borrow?”
Something the team members learned was that, according to Blomfield, “Debt is not always a bad thing if you manage it wisely.”
The student team also met with Rexburg’s mayor, Jerry Merrill, to discuss the issue of national debt.
“It was interesting,” Merrill said. “I’m glad that students are wanting to get involved with something that’s such an important issue.”
Merrill explained to the students how the City of Rexburg is using various strategies to limit government spending.
He said one of these strategies is meeting with various local entities in a group called RPO (Rexburg Planning Organization) to discuss things they are doing. This allows them to limit spending because often these entities have common needs for which they can share expenses.
Merrill said recently they discovered that the City of Rexburg, Madison County and the transportation department all needed traffic studies completed.
“Instead of doing three of them and paying for three of them, let’s just do one,” the mayor said.
He said by doing this, they were able to cut the cost to a third of the original cost for each entity.
Another way the City of Rexburg has found to save money is to contribute law enforcement and fire department coverage to Brigham Young University-Idaho. Merrill said if the college were to get its own police or fire department, it would cost them a lot more. In turn, the several thousand dollars a year the college spends on these city and county efforts contributes to funds the city and county can use to cover necessary expenses.
On a national level, Merrill mentioned to the students that everyone can contribute to decreasing the national debt by being cooperative when entities have to cut costs in order to save money.
“I commend (the students) for being fiscally responsible … and for encouraging the rest of us to do the same,” Merrill said.
In addition to meeting with the mayor, the student team also organized an “Are you in love with the national debt?” party where they sat people down and talked to them about the national debt. They invited people to sign a petition to support their cause and gathered about 200 signatures.
“It was really interesting some of the responses we got from people,” Blomfield said.
Some people were surprised that the students would spend their Friday evening talking to people about the national debt. Adah said some people simply refused to sign the petition.
“Maybe people are apathetic. I don’t know,” Blomfield said.
Blomfield said he has realized the national debt is actually financed by taxpayers.
Adah, who is studying sociology, approaches the national debt from a different angle than Blomfield’s economical approach.
He sees the social problems that could come as a result of the debt, including widespread poverty.
The other members of their team have different backgrounds, focuses and talents. Each had different responsibilities throughout the process of the competition.
“I think it was teaching us a lot of initiative,” Adah said.
The competition itself is over, but there is still a lot of work ahead for the BYU-Idaho Up to Us team. They are required to put together reports and presentations before the winners are announced. Once they turn in their material, they will have to wait for a couple of weeks while the judges go through the reports.
The winning team will receive a $10,000 cash prize and be recognized by Bill Clinton at the ninth annual CGI U meeting at the University of California, Berkeley in April. The students from the top teams will also be able to go to Washington, D.C. to meet with civic groups and leaders and attend the Peter G. Peterson Foundation Fiscal Summit.
Adah and Blomfield are not focused on winning the competition, however.
“I just got involved for the fun of it, really,” Blomfield said.
The team members are less focused on winning and more focused on the things they have learned from this year, the people they were able to reach and how they will improve their approach next year.
“I had no expectation of winning $10,000,” Blomfield said. “At the same time, it’s fun being involved.”
Adah said this year’s campaign process has shown them what works and what doesn’t, which will allow them to plan ahead next year and reach even more people.
“We’ve put a lot of hours into it, and I learned a lot,” Adah said.
Adah said they also got to know friends they wouldn’t have known otherwise, and Blomfield said these relationships contribute to network building.
When asked what they would do with the money if their team did win, they listed ideas that would benefit others, such as a fund for students on campus.
There are dozens of schools participating around the country, and the goal of the campaign is to reach 15 percent of the school population. Adah said if all the schools reach that goal, “Imagine how far that will go.”
Adah expressed amazement at the fact that the organizations sponsoring Up to Us (the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative University and Net Impact) would contribute toward educating people about the effects of the national debt. He said many other charities try to solve the world’s problems with more money.
“More money is not the solution,” Blomfield said.
Blomfield and Adah encourage people to be responsible about whom they elect and responsible with their own finances.
Adah added that they want the nation’s leaders to know that “We care about national debt. We want them to take action to reduce it.”
Adah said regardless of someone’s political party or nationality, the national debt in the U.S. affects the whole world.
“It is very, very important that people know they have a responsibility,” Adah said.
Blomfield believes that their effort in Rexburg, combined with the effort of the other schools competing in Up to Us, will help the country as a whole work toward improving the nation’s debt situation.
“I think it’s laying seeds,” Blomfield said. “Even if those people don’t change the world, it’s a start.
Here is the link to the original article: http://uvsj.com/news/education/byu-idaho-students-spread-awareness-about-national-debt/article_ce156ee0-dc2c-11e5-bc11-4fdbf8edcbcf.html