Minneapolis Foundation Grant Creates New Scholarships for Summer Debate Camp

We are gettting closer and closer to the June 20th start date for the 12th annual Minnesota Debate and Advocacy Workshop (MDAW)  — our summer debate camp for middle and high school students held on the Augsburg College campus — and many pieces are coming together to make this summer a great one for our campers.

Scholarships make it possible for many of our campers to attend camp, and the Minnesota Urban Debate League is thrilled to have been the recipient of a $10,000 grant from the Minneapolis Foundation’s Youth Philanthropy Fund and its 612 Youth Engagement Project!

Camp is a mix of fun activities and learning opportunities -- Director of Residential Life Alix giving a ride to a camper last year.

Camp is a mix of fun activities and learning opportunities — Director of Residential Life Alix giving a ride to a camper last year.

The Minneapolis Foundation’s support will be invaluable in sending more kids to camp this summer to learn about next year’s debate topic, and strengthen their research and argumentation skills through labs, seminars, group activities, and guest speakers. Furthermore, the grant will allow debaters to participate in our brand new Advocacy Unit for high school students!

An essential part of the MNUDL’s mission statement is to empower students to be “critical thinkers and active citizens who are effective advocates for themselves and their communities.” The Advocacy Unit puts the spotlight upon this core part of our work.

Through the new unit, students will learn how to best use their debate skills to be effective change-makers in the community. Focusing on social justice and advocacy, students identify an issue they are passionate about and work with instructors to create and implement an action plan to make a difference on that issue.

Huge thanks to the Minneapolis Foundation and to the MNUDL’s amazing Administrative and Program Assistant Genesia Williams for being the mastermind of the Advocacy Unit and for all the work she put in to make the support of the Minneapolis Foundation Youth Philanthropy Fund’s 612 Youth Engagement Project a reality!

We’re excited for summer! Only a few more months to go!

To learn more about how to register your child for camp, follow the link below:

MDAW button

Middle School City Championships!

Photo by Armand Langston Hayes Photography.

Photo by Armand Langston Hayes Photography.

Last week our special invitational Middle School City Championships took place at Murray Middle School. Teams from 15 of our participating schools attended the big day to determine this year’s top Middle School debaters!

Each year, the City Championship brings together different Conferences so that students from schools who don’t usually have the chance to debate against each other have that chance and can test their metal against the best of the best.

It was great to conclude this year’s Middle School debate season on such a high note and to see students from across the Twin Cities come together to celebrate their passion for debate, to compete, and to recognize everyone’s accomplishments this year. Students from different schools crowded into the classrooms to watch the exciting final rounds between each division’s top competitors.

Students, coaches, community coaches, and hundreds of volunteers have worked hard to make this season the success it has been.

When asked, debaters had different answers for what their favorite part of the year and the biggest thing they learned this season was. Whether they responded that they enjoyed the opportunity to argue freely, to prove why other arguments are wrong, or to learn more about surveillance technology such as Stingray cell site simulators, everyone’s enthusiasm for our sport was clear during the long rounds of applause and cheering at the awards ceremony.

Special congratulations to Franklin Middle School for being our Rookie division champions, to Seward Middle School for being Novice champions, to Ramsey for being JV champions, and to Sanford for being Varsity division champions!

Thank you to everyone who came together this year to empower middle schools students through debate!

University of Minnesota Middle School Conference Championships

Our three-day middle School Tournament is onto it’s last day today!


Debaters from Battle Creek and Highland Park right after finishing a contentious round of debate.

The 156 young debaters who attended over the course of Tuesday and Wednesday have been busy and the classrooms and hallways of  the University of Minnesota have been filled with students running between rounds and participating in vigorous debate.

On Tuesday, Clara Barton Open School’s debate team debated hard and won 1st in all four divisions! On Wednesday, Varsity division 1st place was won by Highland Park, Novice division was won by Battle Creek, and Seward won Rookie division.

More than 50 volunteers committed their time to judge debate rounds and provide useful feedback and encouragement to the middle school debaters. We are also thrilled that many U of M Department of Communication Studies students participated as judges through the departments Engaged Department Grant!

The tournaments would not have been possible without everyone’s time and help!

Today is the last day of the U of M Tournament, and in a couple of hours 80 bright young minds will be hard at work uncovering good arguments, snooping out weak ones, having fun with friends between rounds, and cheering for each other during the award ceremony.

It’s going to be a fun day!


Volunteer Spotlight – Carlos

We are thrilled that our High School debaters often volunteer to act as judges for our Middle School Debate season. We were able to sit down with Johnson High School debater Carlos to talk about his perspective as a high school debater making the transition to judging middle school debaters:

Carlos photo__1456353944_141.224.147.37My name is Carlos. My experience with high school debate was, I’d definitely say, very changing for me. I had to step it up a bit because last year’s participants were really good.

I started debate because a lot of people and teachers especially consulted me on doing debate, because I’m an outgoing person and I speak my mind most of the time. It was a good choice. It really was. It was a way to actually get my voice out. I like the fact that you learn from it and that you do something with it, that’s what I really like.

And I’m also judging middle school debate now. It’s my first time, but it’s kind of hard. It’s tough because when I’m there hearing them out I want to say something, and then it kills me not to say something.

I feel like it’s a really tough job because you have to listen well, pay attention, write things down… and as you go along you have to kind of remember things about the kids, and how they do. But I have to say from first experience you can learn from it really quick.

As a judge, I think you should think of yourself as one of them, really, so then they trust in you and they do a better job and then they say things better. And then you yourself, you get better. As my first experience, now, I got comfortable with them, it really eased me up as a first-time judge.

Now that I’ve been in both shoes, I can tell that judging can really help you win as a debater and improve, and know what judges might be looking for.

Everyone should try being a judge!

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!