Our summer institute is named after Matthew Harris Ornstein, a young man who found his voice, his confidence, and a home in the debate community. One of his favorite experiences was his time at summer debate institutes while a debater at Georgetown Day School. He passed away five years ago, and his parents, Norm Ornstein and Judy Harris founded the Matthew H Ornstein Memorial Foundation to support Matthew's passion for debate, and to advocate for mental health resources.
Each year, in addition to competitive trophies, a single award is given out at the Ornstein Summer Debate Institute, the Ornstein Outstanding Debater Award. This award is designed to recognize the student that most exemplifies Matthew's memory, demonstrating growth and leadership, sportsmanship and humor, as well as competitive excellence.
This year, we had an array of highly talented nominees:
Arhunmwun Obamogie (7th grader, Kenmoor Middle School):
Samantha Perkins (8th grader, Inspired Teaching)
Ahmad Curtis (Freshman, Bowie High School)
Aisha Bah (Freshman, Roosevelt High School)
Zara Escobar (Sophomore, School Without Walls)
Dennis Martinez (Junior, Northwestern High School)
Munyang Tengen (Senior, Bowie High School)
This year's winner: Munyang Tengen of Bowie High School.
I met Munyang when visiting a practice at Bowie three years ago. She was the only person who took me up on my offer to review her case after that meeting, and had lots of questions. The case needed a lot of work, but her intellectual curiosity and the desire to improve stuck with me.
She had made it a goal coming into this year's summer institute, being considered for the Ornstein Outstanding Debater Award. Her lab leader, Jackie Poapst, felt so strongly about her nomination she literally made a power-point to support her nomination. From Jackie's power-point:
“I sincerely believe that Munyang could befriend anyone. She is a no judgment free zone type of person who caused no drama in lab and really served as a behavior/character leader through example at this camp....I cannot recommend Munyang more for this award. Coming into this camp, the Ornstein award was her top goal. I find that too often, the introverted/quiet kids don’t get the recognition they deserve. Munyang definitely was never the flashy lab kid who wanted to talk all the time, but she would consistently engage in immensely productive ways during lectures, demonstrations, and activity times.
We could always count on Munyang to be a great role model for how to maturely and intelligently engage during class each day. When her partner, Kevin, informed us that he would not be there for the rest of the camp besides one or two days – Munyang stepped up to the plate and would either get him skyped into lectures or would just take vigilant notes to share with Kevin.
Munyang consistently asked thought provoking and detailed questions, and would never shy away from a challenge. She ended up debating a large amount of her debates during the institute maverick, but seemed genuinely excited for the challenge. Munyang is the type of debater every team needs…quiet, calm, mature for her age, intelligent, hard working, and literally nice to everyone.
I could not find a better nomination.”
From Munyang on her selection:
This award was a very big boost in confidence for me. It is also refreshing because I am always very hard on myself. This year I will work very hard on living up to this title and look forward to the opportunities that come with it!