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Somali Debate – Community Topic

Somali Debate Pilot group from 2015

Empowering East African Leaders of Today & Tomorrow

In its first season, Spring 2015, the first of its kind in the nation, students debated in English about the topic of Remittances to Somalia. After the debate rounds, a panel which included Rep. Keith Ellison, gathered to discuss the issue. The day’s programming also featured performance-artists who have deep roots locally and in the Somali diaspora represented here in Minnesota.


The opportunity gap between white and students of color in Minnesota is well-documented. These outcomes are a product of structural inequities that also negatively impacts students’ self-efficacy. Somali students, in particular, face unique challenges that thwart their academic achievement. Through culturally specific topics and community involvement, the East African Debate League gives power directly to students, in order for them to guide important discussions and become leaders and facilitators of debates in multiple areas of their lives. This initiative began with a focus on Somali students in 2014, and has since grown to include more students from the East African region.

Making the Case

The East African Debate League addresses two issues facing East African youth: lack of critical discussion about policies that directly affects the Somali community and the achievement gap for young Somali Americans, other East African and ELL students. The structure of debate allows learners to test new ideas in a space that encourages critical evaluation and examining complex issues from multiple perspectives. The framework of debate helps students increase their understanding of a specific issue and the various factors that affect it: economic, political, cultural, etc. In these debates, students will be the idea generators, creating their own equitable solutions to large issues, and learning how to apply this knowledge to issues involving their education and the health of their communities.

Opening these debates to a community audience will allow an overall increase in the collective understanding of topics such as remittances. While students may not be able to solve such a large community crisis, through debate they become powerful change-agents and self-advocates.


Though the format may change in response to the current global pandemic, virtual volunteering options will be available. Please check back for more. To be notified of opportunities – please email:

Judges watch debate rounds and then evaluate teams on argumentation, logic, and public speaking skills. No prior experience is necessary to volunteer; judges receive a short training and all necessary materials prior to the start of tournaments.

Each tournament will include three rounds of debate, lasting 45 minutes each, and will include dinner and an awards celebration with invited family and community constituents. We expect each students to receive over 30 hours of instruction and debate practicum.