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

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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!

My Experience at Gray Plant Mooty ~ by Chris Oquist

Last summer, Roosevelt High School debater Chris Oquist participated in the Summer Fellowship at Gray Plant Mooty. To conclude his fellowship, Chris wrote an essay describing the experience:



Chris and Ash Farah winning the Mayor’s Debate Challenge in May.

As a lower class minority, the fellowship opportunity is an experience I highly recommend to other high school students. As a senior in high school, I have to be thinking about my future and the fellowship opens the door to many great things. Being at Gray Plant Mooty has helped me see how the legal field works, and to learn about other jobs and careers I might want to be involved in. During my stay at Gray Plant, I was able to help the administration team, which I have realized is the backbone to the firm. During my projects with the administration team, I was in charge of making sure the conference rooms were tidy and well kept. I helped restack refreshments and make sure there were proper utensils available as needed. Along with this, I also helped the administration team prepare supplies for incoming employees – which was really fun when I needed a break from my computer work.

With the Strategic Intelligence group, I worked on transferring files and organizing matter numbers. This kept me busy during the days, and was a long job, but the people were so nice. They took me out to lunch, always asked about my day, were eager to help me when I didn’t understand something, and did their best to make sure I wasn’t bored. Working with them was a great experience and taught me what it feels like to be in an office setting. What I enjoyed most was having the responsibility of being a part of their team and being able to make things easier for them by completing small tasks they weren’t able to get too.


The Roosevelt debate team at the 2015 season opener at Washington Technology.

Working with Dean Eyler was fantastic! We often talked about policy debate and our experiences, but he was also very open to any questions I had about his work and the different parts of the law field I didn’t understand. He took me to meet with an attorney from advocates as well as meetings with Judge Wahl from family court, federal judge Davis, and a judge from criminals. These experiences were incredible because I was able to see how hearings and court procedures went. Being in the courts was great because the judges got to know me more as a person, and showed me how important their jobs are. Judge Wahl was familiar with who I am from meeting me when I was a fellow at Oppenheimer last year, which made me feel important and significant because he was able to recognize me after all the people he has seen in his life.

Working at Gray Plant has given me plenty of opportunities to meet new people, see different parts of the legal field, and spark new interests for my future career. Not only has it shown me different parts of the legal field, but also the different departments that help a firm be successful. I like sitting in the foundation meeting and witnessing how valuable Gray Plant Mooty can be to other programs and small businesses. I would highly recommend the summer fellowship experience to other high schoolers. What I liked most about working there is how many people I know think highly of me. That gives me a great feeling and helps me believe that my future will be as great as I want it to be.

After the Tournament

The first tournament of the season was a big success! Nearly 150 debaters came to Washington Technology for the season opener on Saturday, October 3rd. It was an exciting day of debating, strong competition, tasty pizza, and fun!

11 UDL schools attended the tournament, bringing 69 young debaters, all of whom were focused on taking home a medal or one of the prized trophies.UDL-38

Everyone debated hard, learned a ton, regardless of wins or loses, and there was much applause at the end-of-day award ceremony.

We welcomed 11 brand-new volunteer judges to the tournament, and the debaters nominated Natasha Olubajo, Sidd Singhal, and Lyes Bnarbane as their favorite judges. All three received a medal and a voucher exchangeable for one burrito at the next tournament they judge!

The season opener also inaugurated Rookie Workshops. These workshops were taught by our Program Director Travis, and introduced new debaters UDL-12__1444671140_141.224.139.13to the themes, skills and concepts that debate and this year’s topic involves.

The teams rocked their debate rounds and went home with a bunch of awards:

Highland Park’s Dan Bannister and Ian Dill took home the 1st place trophy for Varsity division. Central’s Joseph Walbran won Novice, and South High School’s Eiset Mebrahtu and Ben Phi were the Rookie division champions.

Aleda Hoover and Ben Jaeger took 2nd place in Novice division for Roosevelt High School. And Washington Technology’s Browerti Koffah and Zarina Sementelli won 3rd place in Junior Varsity.

Never Huber, from Washburn, was the 1st place speaker in Varsity division.

Congratulations to everyone who participated in the tournament! Awesome job studying hard, debating with skill and respect, and starting out the season on a great high note!


Photo credit to Armand Langston Hayes Photography. 

Welcome to Washington!

There is less than a week to go before the season opener at Washington Tech on October 3rd! Everyone here in the office is busy preparing for the tournament, and there’s a ton going on.

With debate teams all around the cities getting ready (cutting cards and planning strategies), making sure the season opener will be a success and a great experience for our debaters involves a lot of moving pieces all coming together just right.

Welcome to WashingtonFrom our administrative and logistics guru Genesia setting up bus schedules, ordering awards and pizza, to our Volunteer Coordinator Monica recruiting volunteer judges and planning judge-training, to our program staff Jake and Travis coordinating with Washington Tech and setting up pairings and a million other details – it’s a team effort with one goal: make Saturday, October 3rd, awesome for each and every participant!

On that morning, after all the walkie-talkie batteries have been checked, signs are put up for the judge lounge, snacks are out on tables, and when dozens of brilliant young debaters are filling the halls, their minds armed for the competition… that’s when all the hard work will pay off. That’s when all our debater’s hard work and devotion will shine and their voices will be heard.

We’re excited to start the year off at Washington Tech!

Who’s ready to debate?!

A “Would You Rather” Pizza Party

Pizza kick-off parties are starting at high schools, and the Minnesota Urban Debate League staff was excited to drop in and visit Patrick Henry High School for theirs! It was a fun time for everyone, and the students were able to talk about debate, share their answers to funny food-for-thought questions, and have delicious pizza.

It’s always great to have established debate team members in the room to share their debate experience with newer students. Some students came by hovering near the door, unsure whether debate would be for them, and found themselves welcomed in by teachers and peers.

The MNUDL’s Administrative and Program Assistant Genesia Williams is an alum of Patrick Henry and got a big cheer from the students!

There was a ton of interest from the twenty students and everyone was excited by the idea of being the person that everyone else will be listening to.

Then the room divided into small groups to tackle the following difficult questions, an exercise that gave the new students a feel of what it is like to argue their perspective to the whole room.


Patrick Henry alum and MNUDL staff member Genesia Williams was a big hit with the team.


  • “Would you rather be a Dragon or have a Dragon?” (“Owning a dragon would make me feel like a princess.” “If I was a dragon I could fly and be magical.”)
  • “Would you rather have no knees or no elbows?” (“No knees because I couldn’t be a writer if I didn’t have elbows.” “No elbows because I bike a lot.”)
  • “Would you rather have to use vinegar eye-drops or sandpaper toilet-paper?” (“Sandpaper, because you didn’t specify how many time we have to use it.” “I said sandpaper for the same reason.”)
  • “Would you rather be able to change the past or see the future?” (“Past, because you can’t do much about the future.” “Seeing the future lets you know that your hard work pays off.”)

Big thanks to Mrs. Stammers and Mrs. Roth, and the Patrick Henry High School debate team for welcoming us to their kick-off party!


The 2nd Annual Mayor’s Challenge: The Great Economic Debate

We are proud to announce that Saint Paul Mayor Chris Coleman,  Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, and Commissioner Michael Rothman are joining forces in supporting the Urban Debate League’s expansion into more high schools and middle schools. Come see top Minneapolis and Saint Paul high school students debate this year’s topic – Resolved: That NAFTA has been beneficial for the economy of Mexico and the United States, specifically Minnesota.

May 20th, 2014 

Augsburg College – Foss Center

2211 Riverside Avenue

Minneapolis, MN 55454 Continue reading