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MN First Lady Hosts 15th Anniversary Panel & Party Celebrating Urban Debate

First Lady Gwen Walz with MNUDL
First Lady Gwen Walz begins the MNUDL 15th Anniversary Panel.

“I just saw kids excited about learning,” said Nelson Inz, Minneapolis Public Schools Board Chair, after hearing about MNUDL debaters speak at our 15th Anniversary kickoff event.

First Lady of Minnesota and MNUDL Advisory Board Member, Gwen Walz, hosted the Minnesota Urban Debate League at the Governor’s Residence on the evening of October 3rd, 2019. 

The evening commemorated the 15th anniversary of the MNUDL, celebrating 15 years of urban debate in Minnesota and sparking excitement for the next 15 years of the MNUDL.

First Lady Gwen Walz moderated a panel of representatives from the MNUDL’s major programs: Manny Nuñez of South High School representing National Topic Debate; Southwest High School student Emi Gacaj representing Spanish Debate League, Augsburg University graduate Hodo Dahir representing East African Debate League; Highland Park Senior High School debater Elsa Snowbeck, representing middle school debate; and volunteer Alix Dahl, who spoke about coaching middle school debate at Hmong International Academy. 

Inz continues,“You want students to be able to evaluate all views. You need that to effectively advocate for your own side – to fully understand the other side. It’s important for youth to go through a process like debate, especially at an age when decision-making is challenging.”

Minneapolis Board of Education Clerk Kim Ellison notes: “The students brought this beautiful big, old building to life. Any time you center student voice is amazing.”

Leaders from the legal field, politics, education, and more Twin Cities changemakers participated in celebrating urban debate at the event, including Osseo school board director, Mike Ostaffe. 

“Debate is great for students,” Ostaffe noted. He attended the event with daughter Kate, a former speech & debate competitor and current undergraduate at the University of St. Thomas.  “Anything that gets you in front of adults in real-world situations, doing what you never thought you could do – that’s helpful for students. The ability to get in front of people to speak and develop cogent arguments using facts is helpful to my daughter and to any student. I hope for there to be more debate and speech in many more schools.” 

“Seeing the outcomes, both by watching the students and in black and white on paper, makes you wonder why debate isn’t in every single school,” added Erin Boltik, Director of Gifted and Talented Programs at Bloomington High School.

Thank you to everyone who helped us kick off our 15th year celebration – and especially to First Lady Gwen Walz for hosting us at her beautiful home. View our Facebook photo album of the event and tag yourself & friends!