The Gig Is Up! Twin Cities Students Debate the Gig Economy

Financial Literacy debaters cheer

Students from Minneapolis and St. Paul learned the fundamentals of financial literacy while debating a local controversy this spring. | Photo Credit: Marina Que

Five years ago, we launched our Financial Literacy Leadership Debates program, which is designed to help girls and gender expansive youth gain fundamental financial literacy knowledge and skills in an engaging debate format. In that time, students have examined the benefits and drawbacks of a variety of financial decisions, like attending college, owning a car, and investing in cryptocurrency. This year, participants learned about the implications of gig work. When our program staff members picked this topic, they knew it was timely – but we didn’t expect it would become so close to home in the Twin Cities.

Controversy over the Uber and Lyft pay rate, and how they interact with Minneapolis city wage policy, dominated local news this spring. Members of Como Park’s team told us,

“I’ve been tuning in more to the news about Uber and wages in Minnesota. I know a lot more than I would have without debating. My opinion didn’t change, but it made me think about other sides of the issue and ultimately gave me more info to back up my opinion.”

Como Park debaters in round

Como Park debaters sort through evidence during the round. Students were given profiles and asked to examine who would benefit most from gig work. | Photo Credit: Marina Que

“I think I did learn things that apply to my life. If I have to decide between internship and gig work like Uber I could choose what was best. I know to ask questions like, “do I have enough to live off of now? Would I make enough for my future plans?” I know I have to think about when I want to start saving or if I want to get an education.”

Johnson High School students pose with trophies.

Johnson High School swept the Experienced Debate division at our Championship Tournament! | Photo Credit: Marina Que

Shannon, who debates on the Johnson High School Financial Literacy Debate team, tells us:

“I learned about what the term gig worker was by doing debate. I wouldn’t have cared about what that means otherwise, but now I know what the arguments are surrounding that work. I understand why people are worried for gig workers. The debating didn’t change my opinion on the issue, but I know a lot more. Knowing the details about what’s good and bad about gig work is important because it covers lots of categories. I didn’t realize how many jobs were considered gigs and how many kinds there were.”

The Financial Literacy Debate curriculum does not just cover a controversy on a specific topic. Embedded in the evidence, students learn about how concepts including budgeting, taxes, trade offs and hidden costs, compound interest, banking, credit & credit scores, short & long term investments, inflation, labor laws, resume writing, and healthcare access interact with the real world. Meanwhile, students gain transferable debate skills like critical thinking, argumentation, and public speaking, as well as greater confidence in their voice. Debate + Financial Literacy = a winning formula!

Expert Opinions & Professional Connections

Financial Literacy Leadership Debates judges

Thank you so much to our generous volunteers for joining us at the Championship tournament! Photo Credit: Marina Que

Another important component of this program is our volunteer judges. We recruit volunteers who have expertise in finance. This year, our students were joined by professionals from Allianz Life, First Bank & Trust, Edina Realty, University of Minnesota & beyond. The volunteers also connect with students to share more about their professional pathways into the finance field. Thank you to everyone who shared their time to make this program possible!

Championship Highlights

Financial Literacy student receives award

Debaters from Johnson High School celebrate earning a medal. | Photo Credit: Marina Que

Please send your congratulations to all of our participants, and an extra shout out to those who took home awards!

Beginner Division

Partnership Awards:

• Champion: Aine Johnson (Como Park)
• Runner Up: Gen Meyer & Sofia Hobson & Arthur Batica (Como Park)
• 3rd: Ista Abdi & Shannon Stone (Johnson)
• 4th: Kowsar Abdi & Stephie Kashanvu (Johnson)

Speaker Awards:

• Top Speaker: Sofia Hobson (Como Park)
• 2nd: Aine Johnson (Como Park)
• 3rd: Ista Abdi (Johnson)
• 4th: Arthur Batica (Como Park)
• 5th: Shannon Stone (Johnson)

Experienced Division

Partnership Awards

• 1st: Sai Yang (Johnson)
• 2nd: Charlotte Washington & Eleanor Johnson (Central)

Speaker Awards:

• 1st: Sai Yang (Johnson)
• 2nd: Eleanor Johnson (Central)
• 3rd: Charlotte Washington (Central)

Thank You To Our Sponsors

This program was made possible with funding from: The Women’s Foundation of Minnesota, InSPIREation Foundation, RBC Wealth Management, First Bank & Trust, Alerus, St. Paul Children’s Collaborative, and City & County Credit Union.

Want to get involved with next year’s program? Please reach out to our Volunteer Coordinator at!