I am excited to share a quick update from the world of summer debate institutes.
Thanks to a generous grant from the Burke Foundation, the WUDL is sponsoring 14 of our most dedicated students to attend external summer debate programs hosted by elite universities around the nation. 10 of these young people just concluded their attendance at the Georgetown Debate Seminar, one of the higher profile debate camps on the East Coast.
Of the 10, 3 were seniors and 9/10 were students of color. All had previously attended our local camp but non had never experienced a program like this before. Everyone participating was a little apprehensive about the program going online during the pandemic, and while online debate isn’t as good as the in-person product, it is proving to be a great stop-gap measure.
I have gathered some quotes from some of the students below detailing their experiences, but the competitive results also speak volumes.
Dennis Martinez, a senior at Northwestern High School, advanced to the Final Round of the Georgetown Debate Seminar Tournament, and two other WUDL teams dropped in the Semi-Final Round. Dennis traveled to several regional tournaments as part of the WUDL Travel Team during the 2019-2020 season, his second year debating. He had never achieved a winning record at an external tournament before, a testament to the hard work and growth he's demonstrated over the last few months. He is an immensely dedicated and talented young man who wants to study Political Science at Georgetown or Emory next year.
None of the Semi-Finalists are rising seniors. The team from School without Walls, Lucy, a sophomore, and Zara, a junior, traveled to a number of regional competitions last year, and experienced some success, including posting the league’s best record at Pennsbury this spring.
The team from Roosevelt was even less experienced. Aisha, a sophomore, went to one regional tournament last year (and won a speaker award). She’d previously won the Middle School National Tournament as an 8th grader, while Ranu had never competed outside the league before. I've seen the immense talent of these young folks for years, and experiences like this provide them with the experience and high-level coaching they need to reach the heights we know they are capable of.
From DuVal Rising Senior Michelle Njoku:
“TLDR Version: Attending the Georgetown Debate Seminars was an amazing experience that I would not trade for the world. I am eternally thankful for the chance to attend. I learned more about the debate world and very importantly Criminal Justice System than I ever imagined I could. I am forever grateful for the opportunity, thank you for believing and investing in me!
Long Version: Forever grateful to anyone and everyone who made it possible for me to attend the Georgetown Debate Seminars. Admittedly, I was a little concerned about how much I’d be missing out by the camp being virtual, but I was very pleasantly surprised. I learned so much about the technicalities of debate in general, which is amazing, but I also learned a lot about this year’s topic. Learning something new about the Criminal Justice System every day I logged on was something I looked forward to. From the guest lectures talking to us about the Judicial System to my Lab leaders answering literally any question I had no matter how silly it sounded made this experience one I wouldn’t trade for anything. My lab leaders, lab assistant, and the people in my lab were amazing connections I formed in the debate community that will last a lifetime. I got to debate with and against different people which made me more versatile. I delivered both 2A and 2N speeches which gave me perspective on both sides. I received immediate feedback after my speeches on how I could improve them. The entire environment was extremely welcoming and thank you to Mikaela for answering all questions and requests promptly. Thank you to all the people I was able to debate against from all around the US, win or lose, they make me better. Finally, Thank you Mr.Trigaux, The Washington Urban Debate League, and Burke Foundation Sponsors for making this all possible. There are so many opportunities that I would not have been exposed to absent debate and I’m so thankful to be a debater in such an amazing league! Thank you again!
From Roosevelt Sophomore Asha Verma:
Georgetown took my debate to the next level and helped my partner and I get over that last hill. I learned so much in only 2 weeks that I participated in it. It was a very good experience and they did a great job, even under the coronavirus circumstances.
From Northwestern Senior Dennis Martinez:
The Georgetown Debate Seminar was an incredible learning experience that will be fundamental to my debate career during this season. I learned a lot about the topic, the technical aspects of debate & was able to test my skills at the camp tournament in which I reached the finals. It was an amazing experience & I thank the WUDL & sponsors for that opportunity, without them it would be impossible to level the playing field.
4 more WUDL students are attending the Dartmouth Debate Institute (DDI) later this summer, rising seniors Justin and Mak from DuVal High School and juniors Paola and Lola from DC International.