Engaged Department Grant Creates New Volunteer Opportunities

Thanks to the Engaged Department Grant Program, the MNUDL will be partnering with the University Of Minnesota’s Department Of Communication Studies to connect more university Communications students with volunteering opportunities at debate tournaments. The grant is designed to inspire greater community engagement within the department’s curriculum – creating this wonderful opportunity for students studying communication to bring their studies full circle and act as volunteer judges for middle school debaters.


Program Director Travis Ormsby discussing policy debate with U of M students.

Young debaters will benefit from the knowledge and experience of the participating students. Furthermore, the Engaged Department Grant will allow university students to apply their studies and experience in a position of authority to help provide our young debaters with a fair, constructive and fun debate experience.

Ron Greene, Chair of the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Minnesota and member of the MNUDL’s Advisory Board, explains that the “partnership will increase the available opportunities for middle school students to debate by increasing and diversifying the judging pool as well as improving the argumentation skills of undergraduates by holding them accountable for comprehending, analyzing, and evaluating the quality of the arguments delivered by middle school students.”

For middle school debaters, being able to speak authoritatively to an adult audience is a profound experience that inverts much of their educational experience – rather than listening to adults, the adults listen to them!

We hope to see great success and growth in this unique connection between the University of Minnesota and Augsburg College that will benefit hundreds of students of all ages for years to come.

Volunteer Spotlight – Sidd Singhal

Sidd Singhal volunteers with the MNUDL as a tournament judge. We spoke with him about why he believes it is important to support debate as a volunteer: 


SiddProfile PictureI got involved as a volunteer because I wanted to give back, and debate was the place where I had the most to give. I felt that I was adding an impact in a unique way, and it’s been a passion of mine to be able to volunteer and share my passion for debate.

I started debating my freshman year of high school in Lexington, Massachusetts. My sister was involved, and I thought it would be a fun activity.

My writing was influenced by debate, and my interviewing skill in general. I have to make decisions every single day in my work, and debate gave me those skills. You understand evidence, how to make arguments, and you can think quickly.

Before coming to Minnesota, I was involved in the debate league in Dallas. In addition to helping students at the tournaments, I would also talk with students once a month about business concepts and other things related to debate. I found that whole experience incredibly rewarding. I stayed involved all three years I was in Dallas.

I worked really closely with a couple of students as a mentor there. And by the time I had left, the one student who had started as a rookie was a debate champion and was the first person in his family to go to college.

It’s been great to be a part of this community and to help give the gift of debate to young people. Some kids don’t have this community and when they gain it, you see how their life changes. Having something to do that you feel proud of is so important when you are a teenager, and debate provides that.

It’s great to share my passion and see the spark getting transferred. Seeing the growth in debaters as they take feedback and improve over the year, who reach out to me afterwards to say thank you for the feedback and the judging, that’s great. It’s a way to get them passionate about something that is so transformative. Being able to contribute to all that as a judge has been great.

I’ve just loved being involved. I think it’s great to see all the things that the league is doing.

Middle School Debate Season Begins!!!

IMG_6904__1452726480_141.224.130.20A new year brings with it a new season of Middle School debate! The first two tournaments of the season were great successes, with more than 200 students participating in the tournaments at Washburn High School and Clara Barton Open School.

At both tournaments, the debaters quickly filled cafeterias and the tables were soon strewn with pages and pages of highlighted articles and arguments. After collecting snacks of granola bars and juice provided by the MNUDL, each debate team would cluster tightly together and pour over their notes, chattering about debate strategy, plans for arguing Affirmative or Negative positions, and which skilled opposing teams to watch out for.

At the tournament at Clara Barton on Tuesday, the award ceremony brought with it applause and wild cheers from the assembled Middle School debaters as, one by one, the awards for teams and individual speakes were announced. The students would rise from their seats as their names were called, big smiles on their faces, and either dash through their peers to receive their award, or carefully descend the big stairs as more names were announced and the cheering continued.

It is a delight to see the students celebrating each other’s accomplishments. They have all worked hard preparing for this debate season and debated with skill and passion.

The next tournament will take place on Wednesday, January 20th, at Highland Park, and our Middle School debaters need volunteer Judges for their rounds.IMG_6912__1452726519_141.224.130.20

If you would like to use your knowledge to help provide our Middle School debaters with fair and constructive judging and feedback, we would love to have you volunteer as a judge.

You can sign up HERE.

To learn more about volunteering opportunities, contact Monica Finke at finkem@augsburg.edu. 


Humboldt High School Debaters Had a Great 2015 Season

Humboldt Team edited

Humboldt High School’s debate team had an amazing season this year! The team has seen a great deal of growth and success in the last two years, and now has nearly two dozen debaters.

We were able to drop in on the team during practice last month – on the day before the UDL City Championships no less! Naturally, the whole team had a laser focus and were practicing hard to prepare for their big day.

Coaches Andrew Walerius, David Coates, and Natasha Olubajo kept the debaters focused in on leaerning as much as possible that evening, with the help of the Minnesota Urban Debate League’s Program Director Travis Ormsby who was there for the practice.

All the practice paid off the next day! At the Championship, Julio and Pang won 6th place in Rookie division. Ayan and Vue took 9th place in Rookie division. Zach and Yossef won 16th place in Novice division, with Yossef also winning 4th place speaker. Jessica was a semi-finalist in Novice division and the 2nd place speaker!

That’s a great way to wrap up a debate season filled with successes for Humboldt’s debate team.

Congratulations to Humboldt’s debaters and coaches for all their hard work!

A Day of Champions, Cake, and Celebration

Our High School debate season came to its exciting conclusion this December at the UDL City Championships on Saturday the 12th and Friday the 11th. Debaters, coaches and volunteers filled Humboldt High School for two days of debate, with the students competing to see who would take home the top awards and be this year’s champions!

Champs 4 In RoundChampions come in many forms:

Champs 2 Edison
Whether Washburn High School debaters Never and Grace winning 1st place and Alex and Lily winning 2nd place in Varsity division; Johnson debaters Esperanza and Jeminee winning 5th place in Rookie division; Edison High School debaters having fun helping the staff set up for the end of tournament celebration by blowing up balloons, building the balloon-arch, and preparing tables; Humboldt Senior High debater Jessica making incredible arguments and winning the 2nd place Novice speaker award; or Roosevelt’s debaters Chris and Riley earning a bid to the upcoming Urban
Debate National CChamps 3 Coateshampionships – all of our students all came away with wonderful memories and pride in their great accomplishments this season.
All of us here at the MNUDL are proud of each and every one of our debaters – they made the season amazing.

And of course, none of this would be possible without the incredible dedication and talent of our many coaches and volunteers.

There was much cheering and applause when David Coates of Humboldt High School won the award for Community Coach of the year, and South’s Erick Taggart won the award for Teacher Coach of the year.

All of our coChamps 1 Victoraches and volunteers do so much for the students. They know that debate is a powerful tool that helps their students follow their dreams and change the world.
Victor Cedeño, Director of Networks and Education Policy for Generation Next, gave the opening speech at the celebration, and told the room about his own experience debating and acting as a debate coach. Like Victor, our debaters will use the skills they polished at the debate podium as they go on to great things.

At the end of the day, everyone went home tired, happy, and well-fed with delicious tacos from Boca Chica.


And there was also cake. And then, very quickly, there was not any cake.

Thank you to everyone for a wonderful High School debate season! See you next year!


Umbrooks Tournament – Talent Show and Great Day of Debate

The High School debate season is more than half over, filling weekends with exciting debate tournaments. Last week saw the JV/Novice State tournament held at Eagan High School, and the Umbrooks tournament took place at the University of Minnesota on November 21st.

IMG_6567 Auditorium__1449614494_141.224.153.149  IMG_6554 Lunchline__1449614476_141.224.153.149The Umbrooks tournament was a great day filled with debate, delicious lunch from Boca Chica, and featured an awesome talent show where our debaters shared their diverse skills with everyone.

IMG_6592 Talent__1449614511_141.224.153.149Whether singing beautifully for the whole room, juggling water bottles higher and higher, reciting Somali poetry, or making everyone laugh with goofy puns (“Who won the skeleton beauty pageant…? Nobody.”) and clever in-jokes about this year’s debate topic ( “What do you call a fish that’s always listening to people’s phones…? A stingray!”), debaters proudly showed off their talents.

MNUDL teams debated wonderfully at the tournament, and took home many high awards:

South High School’s Henry Holcomb and Gabe Ferguson won 3rd place in Novice division, with Gabe also winning 2nd speaker.

Debating for Roosevelt, Chris Oquist and Rylee Phillips were the champions in Varsity division! Lewis Martin and Aleda Hoover took 2nd place in Junior Varsity Division, with Lewis also earning 2nd speaker.

Highland Park’s Maria Coughlan and Lila Insook won 3rd place in Rookie division, and Blessie Mande won 3rd speaker in Novice division.
IMG_6553 Round 1__1449614369_141.224.153.149

Washburn debaters also had a great day: Alex Dresdner and Lily Endo were the 3rd place team in Varsity division! Noah Herrera and Cameron Bleskachek won 3rd place in Junior Varsity division. And Ogden Miller and Beck Woollen were the top team in Rookie division. Furthermore, Alex and Lily were the 1st and 2nd speakers in Varsity division, Evan Walker was the top speaker in Rookie division, Beck Woollen was 2nd speaker in Rookie division, and Ogden Miller was the 3rd speaker.
IMG_6630 Round 3__1449614559_141.224.153.149Humboldt High School’s team of Yussanat Tway, Julio Nakazono and Ayan Khalif took 4th place in Rookie division.

And Browerti Koffah, debating for Washington Technology, won 2nd place in Varsity division!


Congratulations to everyone for all their hard work and well-won debate successes at Umbrooks!


Next up: the UDL City Championship this weekend at Humboldt High School!

Thanks to our Volunteers


The MNUDL’s volunteers keep debate strong in the Twin Cities. The recent Umbrooks tournament at the University of Minnesota was a big success through the efforts of volunteers and volunteer judges, and our Outreach Coordinator Monica Finke expresses our thankfulness for the invaluable contributions of our community:


During this Thanksgiving time, I want to express my gratitude for all of the great people who volunteer with MNUDL. At the beginning of August, I
started my position as the AmeriCorps Volunteer/Outreach VISTA at the Minnesota Urban Debate League (MNUDL). While it was a very exciting time, I was definitely nervous because my background knowledge didn’t include the best practices of  volunteer management. I realize now that I had nothing to worry about, thanks to MNUDL’s fantastic volunteer base.Thanksgiving 1

From the Kickoff Tournament at Washington Technology Magnet School to the UMBrooks tournament at the University of Minnesota, volunteers have given up part of their weekends to serve as debate judges at high school tournaments. As a debate judge, they listen to the arguments and evaluate both teams. They also provide crucial feedback that helps debaters grow their skills over the course of a season. In total, our volunteers have donated approximately 567 hours of their time to MNUDL as debate judges and tournament support volunteers.

Thanksgiving 2It’s also been such a pleasure to get to know our volunteers and learn about their motivation for serving as a debate judge. Our volunteers come from many different backgrounds, including professionals, college students, law students, UDL alumni, and many others. Some have a background in policy debate while other volunteers are brand new to the activity. What they all share, however, is a passion for supporting youth in debate.

Thomas Edison High School’s Debate Team is Thriving and Ready for Action

Edison 2Edison 4

Edison 1Edison 3

The debate team at Thomas Edison is going strong this year, after growing from four to now more than a dozen students!

Last week, the team was gearing up for the Umbrooks debate tournament at the University of Minnesota, and the whole team was busy reading evidence and talking strategy.

Underneath the smiles, laughter, jokes and light-hearted chatter was a keen focus on the recent updates to the debate materials for Novice division – fresh articles, information, and arguments that the Edison debaters will use to create new tactics and approaches in their upcoming debate rounds.

Coaches Christine Sanguinet, Bethany Piety and Lyes Benarbane kept the debaters focused and learning throughout the hour and a half practice session, and kept the atmosphere friendly and fun. With many new debaters starting on the team this season, the coaches and the more veteran debaters have a lot of experience and knowledge to share as everyone gets up to speed.

Having now debated for three months, the new debaters are filled with enthusiasm, and talked about the excitement and thrilling pressure of debate rounds, and of their confidence in their ability to speak in front of others.
With great team spirit, tons of energy, and leadership and guidance from Christine, Bethany, Lyes and the experienced debaters, Thomas Edison’s debate team is going stronger than ever.

Congratulations to everyone for their hard work building up Edison’s debate team!

Performance Debate Workshop

Tiana Bellamy is a Augsburg student and Bonner intern at the Minnesota Urban Debate League. Tiana has extensive experience as a debater, achieving success on the national circuit. On October 23rd, Tiana led a workshop on performance debate and wrote an essay about the workshop:

Tiana with her debate partner

Tiana (right) with fellow Central High School debater Dua Saleh (left), both now Augsburg College students.

On October 23rd, I had the pleasure of leading one of the breakout sessions for the Urban Debate League’s very own workshop!

When I debated for Central High School, my partner and I used a style of policy debate known as performance debate, which is all about acknowledging the importance of where knowledge comes from. So, naturally my workshop was focused on what performance debate is, and how to do it.

I had some brilliant participants in the workshop with me and we had a great time playing games and learning from each other about how to have a meaningful debate with someone who debates differently. We even had an expert on domestic surveillance policy, the Chief Privacy Officer of Deluxe Corporation, Linnea Solem, come and speak to the participants and answer any questions they had.

I know I learned a lot and that the participants did too. In summary, it was a great night!

“Debate is much more than an extracurricular activity, it naturally becomes family.”

Kristell Caballero Saucedo recently joined the Minnesota Urban Debate League’s Young Professional Board. After immigrating to the United States, Kristell debated with the MNUDL, became a Fulbright Scholar and spent the last year living in Hungary. Now returned to Minnesota, Kristell is  giving back to the debate community.

Could you introduce yourself, your professional background, and talk a little bit about your connection to debate and to the Minnesota Urban Debate League?

I am Kristell Caballero Saucedo, a 2009 MKristell2NUDL alumna from Minneapolis North High School. Professionally, I focus my work on research on ethnic minorities rights and activism, and I am currently a New Sector Alliance Fellow at Northside Funders group working on racial equity and inclusion in grantmaking and cross-sector impact initiatives.

Why did you join the Young Professionals board and how are you involved?

The MNUDL impacted my life by giving me the opportunity to learn beyond what I was taught in school. It help develop my critical thinking to be able to understand and make a connection between the information I was learning through debate practices and tournaments and the problems that affect my community. In addition, it sparked my interest in politics and influenced my decision when deciding my major in college and my current career path on human rights and racial equity and inclusion. I believe that my story in not unique within the UDL, and for this reason I am inclined to be part of an organization that has the capacity to change the lives of youth in my community.

What are you most excited about for the MNUDL this next year

I am mostly looking forward to be back into the debate community after being away for 6 years and becoming an active alumna.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

There are many great people in the MNUDL community. My high school coach, Eli Brennan was one of them. He became an additional supportive father figure to both me and my debate partner; for many MNUDL students, debate is much more than an extracurricular activity, it naturally becomes family.

Thanks so much!