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COVID-19: Fall 2020 plans and student resources ›

Craft a Compelling Speech With These Public Speaking Resources

Read More: Get Tips for a Winning Speech

The Star Tribune’s Youth Criminal Justice Contest, with entries due August 16th, is accepting entries in 3 different formats: written essay, audio recording, or video.

As a debater, your voice is powerful. Have you considered applying to the contest with a recorded speech?

You’ve already learned how to develop compelling arguments. Your voice brings them to life. Use these resources for inspiration, tips, and tricks if you decide to enter the contest with a recorded speech (via video or audio format):

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A Criminal Justice Reform Documentary Watchlist

PBS NewsHour

Free Resources for Policy Debaters from PBS

The national policy debate topic for 2020 will be:

Resolved: The United States federal government should enact substantial criminal justice reform in the United States in one or more of the following: forensic science, policing, sentencing.

With a 59.6% vote in January, speech & debate organizations voted for Criminal Justice to be the policy debate resolution for all of 2020. Since then, the resolution has become more urgent and timely.

While you stay home this summer and prep for the upcoming season, these PBS NewsHour documentaries are a great place to start. Use your knowledge to enter the Star Tribune & Minnesota Urban Debate League’s Youth Criminal Justice Essay, Audio, & Video Contest before August 16th. Note: Documentary summaries from PBS.

Continue reading “A Criminal Justice Reform Documentary Watchlist”

Celebrating Disability Pride Month: 10 Disability Activists Who Are Former Debaters

Collage of Disability Activist Debaters

The Minnesota Urban Debate League celebrates Disability Pride Month this July, marked to honor the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These great former debaters put their advocacy skills in action to pave the path for a more equitable, inclusive world. Do you know other former debaters whose work you want us to honor? Email to let us know.

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Star Tribune & MNUDL Sponsor Criminal Justice Video, Audio, & Essay Contest

How Would You Reduce Racial Inequality & Injustice in the Criminal Justice System?

Vasanth Rajkumar / CC BY-SA (

Enter the Youth Video, Audio, & Essay Contest Sponsored by Star Tribune & MNUDL With Your Solution

The killing of George Floyd and the unrest that followed have created a long-delayed but urgently needed discussion on police brutality, inequities in the criminal justice system and racial injustice more broadly.

The Minnesota Urban Debate League (MNUDL) and Star Tribune Opinion believe in the power of young minds and voices, and if you are between the ages of 10 and 18, we want your best ideas about how our communities can continue the hard work of responding to these problems.

We Want to Hear Your Voice:

The task is to create an original written essay, video or audio file which describes one or two specific changes our community, state or nation should make to reduce racial inequities and injustices in the criminal justice system.

Top submissions as determined by a group of judges from the Twin Cities and greater Minnesota will be published in the Star Tribune and on and shared with leaders across our state and nation.

Your words could pass new laws, transform society, spark revolutions, change minds and hearts, or help heal our communities.

The Rules:

The submission should be entirely your words and made by you, although others may teach you new skills, such as operating a camera, microphone or computer software. Submissions must come from young people between the ages of 10 and 18, using their age as of Dec. 31, 2020. You may also submit a group project with up to six friends (seven people total).

Written essays must be no more than 700 words, typed, double-spaced and in 12-point font. Video and audio submissions should be no longer than two minutes and must be submitted in a file format that can be uploaded to YouTube. If you use any materials from other people (research, writing, video or audio clips, etc.) you must give credit to those people either in your submission or in an additional text document not more than 50 words long.

How to Enter:

Questions can be sent to To enter, fill out the form below and submit your essay, video or audio file by Aug. 16.

Please be passionate, be creative and feel free to use your own personal experiences as evidence for your arguments.

There is no right or wrong answer. You have the chance to make change, and we look forward to hearing your voice.

Learn More & Apply to the Contest

Use Your Voice: Free Summer Social Justice & Civic Engagement Opportunities

Connect With Others, Gain Skills, & Make Change This Summer

Join These Free Opportunities This Summer

Despite COVID-19-related limitations, we’re so thrilled that we can still spend four weeks with students this summer – including middle and high school policy, Congress, and speech campers. They’re analyzing the timely criminal justice reform topic, building public speaking and advocacy skills, and researching potential solutions to issues facing our community. We love that the virtual format has allowed us to meet students from across the United States. However, we know that times are rapidly changing, and that week-long camp was not right for everyone this year.

That’s why we’re excited by these free community-based opportunities for civic engagement training and community issue discussions. Apply & sign up now to take part. You’ll enter the season – and the 2020 election – more prepared to grapple with the complex issues we are facing in Minnesota and beyond.

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Be a Judge: Help Make Summer Speech & Debate Camp a Success!

We Need Policy, Speech, and Congress Judges!

Dates Available to Volunteer June-July

In response to COVID-19, we’ve translated our regular summer debate camp programming to an all-virtual space. Students will gain just as many opportunities to enjoy practice debates as before – but we need your help!

Isabel Kleckner

Have Zoom? Can Judge!

We need experienced judges in policy debate, student congress, and speech categories. View our website and reach out to us at for details.

Volunteers needed to judge on these dates. See shift information on the signup page on our website.

  • June 26th (All Day) – (Middle School Policy Finals)
  • June 28th-July 15th (Daily) – (High School Policy)
  • July 3rd – (High School Congress Finals)
  • July 10th – (Middle School Congress Finals)
  • July 17th – (Middle School Speech Finals)

Sign up for shifts today!

The Road To Nationals: After Detours, Highland Park is Getting There 

The Road To Nationals: After Detours, Highland Park is Getting There 

The partnerships of Tristan Kmoch and Zach Glaser (above), Mason Eischens and Sam Groven (bottom left), and Henry Kelly and Elsa Snowbeck earned a spot at Nationals this December.

This winter, Highland Park’s team started off their road to nationals strong, qualifying three teams to compete at the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) Championship Tournament: Henry Kelly & Elsa Snowbeck, Mason Eischens & Sam Groven, and Tristan Kmoch & Zach Glaser.

Qualifying to compete at Nationals is a huge honor – so Highland Park’s triple-whammy qualification was impressive.

But COVID-19 has upended all aspects of Spring 2020, and the competitive debate season is no exception. The National Speech & Debate Association Championship Tournament, held in June each year, is an exciting opportunity for students to meet and compete with talented speech and debate competitors from across the nation. It usually means making memories on a road trip with team members, enjoying the hotel pool, and souvenir shopping – but for the first time in history, the competition is all virtual.

Learn more about how the Highland Park team members have adapted their approach post-COVID-19 in preparation for the upcoming virtual version of Nationals. 

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Special Request: Help Our Neighbors at MIGIZI Rebuild

MIGIZI Students Urgently Need Your Help


Support Indigenous Youth Voices; Help MIGIZI Rebuild

Early morning Friday, May 29th, the MIGIZI nonprofit building in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis, MN (one street over from the 3rd Precinct building) went up in flames amidst ongoing protest over the senseless killing of George Floyd.

Like the Minnesota Urban Debate League, MIGIZI is a youth-centered organization elevating the voices of Twin Cities’ youth. They’re our neighbors and, like us, are part of the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota’s YWI cohort of grantee-partners. And we want to see their rebuilding efforts succeed.

The surrounding community has already sprung into action to begin clean up and financial recovery. We believe it’s important to amplify this work, so we are asking you to make a gift towards that effort, using their website, their GiveMN campaign or through GoFundMe.

Donate to Help Rebuild MIGIZI Today
MIGIZI’s mission is to act as a circle of support that nurtures the development of Native American youth in order to unleash their creativity and dreams – to benefit themselves, their families and community. Since 1977, MIGIZI has provided youth with state-of-the-art storytelling skills, enhancing self-esteem and improving academic performance.

If you value our debate programs, you’ll understand what MIGIZI’s programming means to the Native American community in the Twin Cities. Please donate to their GiveMN campaign or GoFundMe.

Leadership from MIGIZI stated, “As an organization and circle of support, MIGIZI is heartbroken over the tragic death of Mr. Floyd. We stand with the family and friends of Mr. Floyd, as well as with our African American brothers and sisters, and all the peaceful protesters…We’ve been fighting for justice and equality since 1977. We are now faced with the task of rebuilding our sacred space to continue to serve our community, our future.”

Your gift will make a difference. Will you help MIGIZI?

Support MIGIZI on GiveMN

Our Graduates: Their Future Plans and Lessons Learned

Graduates Collage

We are incredibly proud of this year’s graduates. Although they will face unique challenges amidst today’s upheaval – whether from COVID-19, economic uncertainty, or the devastation of police violence in our community – we’re inspired by their open-mindedness, optimism, and where they’re going next. Find out more about their future plans and what they’ve learned from the end of senior year.

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All-New, All-Online MDAW Trailer Debut

Did You Miss Camp Preview Day? No Problem.


Thank you to all who joined us for the online MDAW preview sessions! If you missed us, use these Youtube links to see meet online MDAW staff and see what camp will be like:

New trailers for MDAW’s all-online 2020 camp:

Full session recording:

Registration Ends on June 12th!

Whether it’s your first time attending speech & debate camp or you’re an experienced competitor, we have a camp tailored to your level. Learn more about camp at our website, including staff bios, sample schedules, and more.