Why I Debate.

Student Testimonials

 Obdulio Martinez, an eighth-grader who has been on the team since sixth grade, said his “speaking and reading and skills were not the best,” but debate helped him to catch up on those skills. “I learned how to read faster and read in a condensed amount of time.” (https://debate.prezly.com/debates-help-students-improve-skills)
“My favorite part about it is that when you talk about something, you can let your opinion out about something and you can just be yourself,” Kamilah said. She admitted past trouble in English classes, but said her grades are “in the 80s category.” (https://debate.prezly.com/debates-help-students-improve-skills)

“‘Most of my life,’ he said, ‘I don’t know why—I’ve always liked to argue about things. Ever since I was little, I’ve always debated. No opinion was right until I proved it right.’” (“At City Debate Championships, A Brooklyn Team Perfects the Art of the Argument,” http://www.kingscountypolitics.com/at/ (3/23/16) - Josiah, Success Academy Brooklyn

“One of the most special things about debate, it really helps you find yourself. because all the arguments come from the heart. It really changed the way I think.” - Miana Vega ACORN HS, National Championship Qualifier, Tournament of Championships Qualifier
“You are never too young to be a good debater. Good debaters can come out of anyone and anywhere. So your ability and passion for the things that you do makes you a good debater. - Daushan, PS 161
All of us have a debater in us because all of us want justice and all of us know how to stand up for ourselves” - Herbert, PS 161

"I think debate makes kids feel like they have a force that nobody can deny... Debate makes me feel like I'm very smart, and very bright, and that I have a great future ahead of me." - Franklin, 8th grader

Hello, I am 12 years old, and I am a debater.  When I got my first trophy it was amazing.  I felt like a queen.  That trophy was the first trophy I have ever gotten in my life.  That trophy changed my life forever.  I was nervous when I got it too.  I just want to say thank you, thank you for everything. - Anissa P., 6th Grade, Great Debater, Family Life Academy Charter School

I joined debate because I want to become a lawyer.  My teacher Ms. Norman thought joining the debate team would help jumpstart my career.  The best aspect of debate is reading fast.  Because if you read fast and clear you get a chance to prove your point and the explanation behind that.  From debating and the coaches, I learned aspects of problems going on in the world.  - Amanda S., 6th Grade, Great Debater at Mott Hall Academy, first year debater

“The prizes aren’t just the trophies and the medals, but the knowledge that you will keep with you forever”-Ammy Ovando, 8th grade, PS 161

“When I started debate I assumed I would lose. But after one year in debate,I’ve changed a lot. Debate makes me feel alive. I am not afraid to raise my hand in class. I’m an open person. Having debate in my life means havingfreedom. Debate has taught me that sometimes you can rise above. And it brings me hope.”-Feiry Guaba, 7th grade, PS 161

“As a Latino male, the topic of Stop and Frisk laws was fascinating to me. I’ve seen people get stopped and frisked who should have been protected by the4th amendment. But they didn’t know about the 4th amendment. There is a chance I could be targeted, so I have to learn more about this issue.”-Jalen Guichardo, 7th grade, PS 161

“I went to an all-girls debate at Hunter College. In a regular tournament, your partners are from your own school, but here they mixed everybody up. I was partnered with some older girls from the Anderson School. They gave me a lot of tips, and I think soon I’ll be just like them. I’ll jump off of what they are doing and do it my own way. Before I went to debate, I was shy and had trouble speaking. When I went for the very first time, it inspired me. I’ve learned so many strategies about how to communicate, and my writing has improved. One day, when I am a lawyer, I’ll say it’s all because of debate. That’s when I started pushing. It all started there.”-Jasmine Rodriguez, 5th grade

“The hardest moment was finding out we didn’t advance to the sem-finals,” says Katherine Rosas, a 7th grader. “I was devastated. But my team was there for me.”After top ten showings at five tournaments in a row, and going undefeated at three, the excellent 3-on-3 team had become accustomed to glory. But at the Westchester Classic this February, it was their teammates Mohamed Conde, Syu Caballero and Gregory Carter who claimed victory. “I’m proud of us for losing,” says 7th grader Allan Rivas, reflecting on Westchester. “Losing makes you better.”“At first we were frustrated, but debate teaches you how to appreciate the successes of others,” says Benitez

“When my mom came and saw a debate, she was so excited to see me doing something productive, bonding with other kids and making friends, being serious but also having fun.” -Rajendra Singh, 7th grade, PS 161

“It’s weird, but if you are a gooddebater, people think that you shouldn’tbe running in the hallway. I wonder whythey think that being a good debater means you would be less likely to run in the hallway? I guess they start to expect more of you.”-Herbert Espinal, 6th grade, PS 161

Why do I debate? Debate is an activity that gives anyone interested in learning, the opportunity to obtain knowledge in both politics and critical arguments. However, on a more personal level, debate is simply something that I love; something that motivates me to do better in school and in life. Besides being with amazing friends at tournaments, debate allows me to express myself and express ideas that I have in mind. It allows anyone to argue what they want, and have a personal connection to their advocacies. Debate has taught me to look at every side of an argument, and the atmosphere of being with such intelligent individuals has the potential in itself to motivate anyone to do better. As the son of Hispanic immigrants, debate and Bronx Law has given me a chance to compete at some of the national circuit tournaments with some of the most prestigious high schools and debaters around the nation attending; something I never even thought possible. This feeling of being able to compete with the best, is what motivates me to debate, and ultimately keeps me going to every debate tournament. Even when encountered with budget problems, there is nothing that stops me from debating and from teaching/telling other people about the beauty of policy debate. Besides getting the adrenaline rush from standing in front of judges and teams from around the country, the adrenaline I get from teaching novices about debate is another wonderful aspect of this activity; teaching others what you know and spreading knowledge. This is especially true for a school like Bronx Law, where coaching and resources may be limited at times. However, communication and discussions between alumni, is one of the aspects that has made this group ultimately as strong as it has become. Before being apart of the debate team at the Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice I was never given the opportunity to explore and research the amount of literature that I find myself reading today. From the philosophies of Foucault, Nietzsche, Hillman, and Heidegger to arguments about race, sexism, capitalism, and militarism. Before Bronx Law I found myself conforming only to the normal, reading literature assigned in school or by teachers. However, Bronx Law and debate gives anyone their own sense of individuality, allowing themselves to research and explore the ideas and literature of people who’s ideas have had influential impacts in society. - Lenny Herrera, 11th Grade Great Debater at the Baccalaureate School, Octafinalist at the Harvard University Debate Invitational

"I was recruited to join a policy debate team. Not the most popular activity to do, I stayed on the team simply because I was afraid of what would become of me if I didn't. With a pregnant best friend at 13 and gangs controlling many Bronx neighborhoods, I thought it was a matter of time until something would go wrong in my life. Through debate, I decided I wanted to go to college at fifteen, and once I wanted it, passion took over.... Debate proved to be the platform of my education. Not only did it build a confident woman in me, it put me in a setting that allowed me to meet remarkable people that have continued to shape my life for the better. I am indebted with the LGJ debate team...” - Maribel Vaquez, writing in her successful Fulbright Scholarship application.  Maribel is a graduate of the Bronx School of Law, Government and Justice and one of our top debaters.  She was accepted to Franklin and Marshall College on a full scholarship from the Posse Foundation (all expenses paid).

I joined the debate team because I usually argue a lot so I always enjoy it when I’m right.  Also, I have a good feeling every time I’m right.  Also I have a good feeling every time I have something to destroy someone else’s logic.  In debate I like having to be able to working in a team or group.  The reason why is because then I get to brainstorm with my partner and see what we can come up with that will show how our team is right and how the other team is wrong.  I learned a lot about debate that I didn’t know like solvency, plan, inherency and a lot of other things… our coaches Annie and Adrie are really good because so far when they have taught me in debate they went back so I can understand what the topic or subject was about.  I’ve only been to one tournament but my experience was great.  I was able to lose my first ever debate, which was bad but then I was able to use that to win my second one  - Dalien R., 7th Grade, Great Debater, Mott Hall Academy

I hadn’t seen my father since I was 10 years old.  But I always wrote to him in jail about what I did on the Debate Team and all the trophies I got.  One day at night he surprised me at home!  And the first thing I showed him were my debate trophies.  He was so proud of me he bragged about how his daughter is in the debate team and how many people don’t have the courage to stand up in front of others and speak their mind, debate is a part of me and it will forever be a part of me.  Everything about it excites me and I appreciate everything my coach has done for the team.  He has been kind of like a second father to me, we are all about teamwork not only within debate but overall we help each other out! - Ashley M., 8th Grade, Great Debater at the Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice, 1st Place Winner at multiple middle school tournaments, as well as Quarterfinalist at the Manchester Invitational (high school division! and debated by herself!)

Over the summer I was granted the opportunity to go to Emory university National Debate Institute an University of Missouri Kansas city summer debate camp on a Urban Debate League discount. Emory has a strong relationship with UDL schools being that they started the first UDL program in Atlanta Georgia. I spent six weeks at Emory perfecting my skills and working with amazing instructors while debating against some of the most competitive debaters. At Emory we had 10 hours of lab a day, with at least one practice debate or speech exercise worked in. Six week at Emory went by fast and before I knew it, the tournament was here and I was anxious to compete. My parter and I broke as the second overall seed of the tournament taking only one loss to the top seed who we would eventually debate in the final round in front of everyone. The second portion of my summer debate EXPERIENCE was at University of Missouri Kansas-City. This camp was shorter and more evidence intensive than Emory. At the camp from the first day I knew who my partner was going to be. The only other UDL debater from in state. We quickly became friends and shared UDL stories not knowing that two weeks from that day we would be debating in the finals of the camp tournament being top seed.  During my debate summer I learned a plethora about debate that I hope to share with younger debaters in league.  My experience would not have been possible without the support from my school and my membership in the UDL. by Jesus Raul Cepin, Bishop Loughlin, 12th Grade

I am volunteering to teach debate at the school Family Life Academy Charter School. They didn’t know debate existed till I came along. For the last couple of months I’ve been teaching there.  Their students and teachers have been learning different things every time that I show up. I’ve been teaching them debate skills on how to speak, research, building arguments, how to take down notes, question during cross-examination, and how to win. When they went to their first tournament one of my teams won 9th place. They were so excited and I was soooo excited for them! It was a great way to start off the year.  - Yaira Brito, 8th grade Great Debater at the Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice, Assistant Debate Coach, Quarter-Finalist Best Team at the Middle School National Debate Championship in San Antonio, Texas

I practiced for months and trained for hours and hours for Mr. Fogel’s debate team.  My partner for our debate was a close friend of mine and we were so nervous to go against these private Manhattan schools who hire coaches to train their students to exceed in their speeches and basically destroy us.  Being from a public Bronx high school, we didn’t have much faith in one another.  What we did have though, was Mr. Fogel.  Mr. Fogel was the only debate teacher and coach in our whole entire school.  Mr. Fogel taught me how to speak properly, research, build my arguments, how to take down notes and overall how to win.  My partner and I arrived at the tournament feeling confident and smart…. I debated with the best of my ability and was awarded the third best speaker at the whole tournament!  I was so proud of myself and ever since then I have won many awards!  And I owe it all to Mr. Fogel who had faith in all of us and helped us achieve greatness.  Debate has made me feel like a new person because it showed that I could do more work than I thought I was capable of.  - Nalia Santiago, 10th Grade, Great Debater at the Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice, debater since 7th grade

Due to my involvement in debate the HEOP (Higher Education Opportunity Program) staff took interest in me and accepted me to Hamilton College via their HEOP program which I received a full scholarship to Hamilton College.  In the letter they said they were most impressed with my debate achievements and being captain on the debate team!  Debate has given me so many skills and knowledge.  We learn about things we do not learn in class and we compete against the best in the nation.  I would not be valedictorian of my school if it wasn’t for debate!  In college I hope to keep on working to help debaters in the Bronx. - Erika Marte, 12th Grade, Great Debater at the Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice, 2011 Gates Millennium Scholar, 3rd Place Best Speaker and Semi-Finalist Best Team at the New York State Debate Championships

My mom had me when she was 14.  My uncle sold weed to buy me pampers but went to jail.  We had to pay $1,200 to bail him out or he had to stay in jail for 5 years.  I don’t want to follow his footsteps so doing debate helps me stay out of trouble and get a good education and go to college. - Tiauna G., 8th grader, Great Debater at the Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice, Quarter-Finalist at the New York State Middle School Debate Championships

My uncle was shot in the neck by his friend because his friend was in a gang selling drugs.  My uncle was selling drugs too and there was a fight.  They found him on the ground, called police and an ambulance, and took him to a hospital, and he almost died.  He survived and now he’s off the streets.  So one thing I like about debate is we are in a safer environment, inside the school, we’re not outside.  In debate I have friends, I can read better, it’s helped me in classes in general.  A lot of the topics I learn in social studies, I already learned in debate.  I’m successful and win many trophies.  That keeps me on the right track. - Ashley C., 8th grader, Great Debater at the Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice, 9th Place Best Speaker at the Middle School National Debate Championships

"I have set myself apart from my peers by overcoming a language and cultural barrier to succeed as a student, a debate team member, and a community leader. Throughout the course of my life, I have always been drawn to challenges. For example, when I was four years-old and still living in the Dominican Republic, I convinced my mother to take me to a tutoring program in our neighborhood. The problem was that the program was for high school students—not pre-schoolers. Nevertheless, I was curious about what the big kids were learning, and I begged my mother until she complied. “Here, you have a new student,” my mother said as she smiled and shook her head at the program leader, who took me in as a favor. Indeed, I became a new student sitting among the big kids. When I started school the following month, I was the only kindergartner who already knew how to read and write. That experience was my first introduction to the power of learning and the power of persistence. Such challenges continue to enrich my academic life and performance. My new confidence helped me seek out new challenges, such as public speaking. As a member of my school’s debate team, I won a Best Speaker award in 2011, six years after arriving in America speaking only Spanish. To incorporate my passion for community service with my newfound love for debate, I create a debate team at my former school. As a debate coach for the New York City Debate League, I am committed to broadening my community’s educational endeavors. Students learn public speaking and argumentation skills which they in turn use to compete in debate tournaments throughout New York City. Because we come from a crime-ridden community, it is heartwarming to see these students transform, from individuals predestined to fail because of limited resources, into newly changed enthusiasts with a positive outlet for expression of their ideas of the world. Through debates featuring U.S intervention in the Syrian conflict and U. S.-Chinese Relations, participants learn about social issues including human trafficking, discrimination, poverty and corrupt politics. Perhaps the most gratifying of all is knowing that I served as a catalyst to creating the new reality that these students now inhabit--a reality where they can change the world with words, arguments, and ideas. My involvement with the New York City Debate league has served as a catalyst for all of my successes. I have completed  1,780 hours of community service and travelled around the country and world to places like Washington D.C., Atlanta, Costa Rica, Finland, Russia and Sweden. I have also been the Scholar of the Year at my school for three consecutive years and will be graduating as my class’ Valedictorian.  Additionally, I will be joining Columbia University’s Class of 2018 this fall as a Coca Cola Scholar, New York Times Scholar, Ronald McDonald Scholar, Dell Scholar and the most prestigious, Gates Millennium Scholar. I am looking forward to all of the opportunities that the New York City Urban Debate league will open to my future academic and social endeavours." - Sorangel Liriano

" My name is Celines Berroa and I will be graduating in June 2014. Throughout my high school career I was always engaged in a lot of extracurricular activities- many involving giving back to the youth; or programs that will improve my academics. However, the most impactful of all extracurricular activities have been my involvement within the debate team.  I joined debate my sophomore year of high school and for more than 2 years I have seen myself grow both in terms of academics and social skills. Before the debate I wasn’t really  into  history as I should have been. But after joining debate- I’ve seen myself more interested in history, especially African American history. I love to learn about subjects such as slavery and xenophobia. More specifically, modern day slavery which is a topic that is always within the debate sphere. It has helped my social skills because I am no longer timid and I am not afraid to present within class. When applying to college debate-  it made me more prepared. Fogel always emphasized be a great debater- and for a long time I didnt know what that meant- but after 2 years of debate and now a senior going to college- I have realized the true meaning of a great debater- and I am a true debater." - Celines Berroa

Hello, My name is Stephany Castillo. I will be graduating from Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice in June and will be attending Alfred University this fall on a full scholarship. I gained a lot of opportunities because of The NYC Urban Debate League such as a full scholarship to college, semifinalist for the Posse Foundation scholarship, interviews and internship opportunities. I volunteered for the past 4 years in my high school career. Volunteering as a judge and a coach has been the best experience I could possible experience. As a student learning about politics  then going on to teach children younger than yourself impacts the way you view education and the world. You become more educated while teaching, so its a never ending cycle of learning.  I am very appreciative of the opportunities and the experience I gain being a debater and I hope to take this knowledge and leadership skills on to college. - Stephany Castillo

"When I was younger I was always doing stupid stuff, hanging out in streets, hanging out with the wrong people.  I thought they were my friends.  When I got arrested, none of them were there for me. It was like I was trapped in a box.  And only my mother was there for me, none of my friends.  And so I realized I didn’t want to be in that situation again.  I wanted to use my powers for good and not evil.  I set a goal for myself.  I started building step by step, started accomplishing stuff, of course I failed sometimes.  But I noticed I really liked debate and it’s a good opportunity to show what I really am and express yourself and your thoughts.  As I started seeing I was good at it, I started getting bold and asking myself why can’t I do good in my other classes.  That’s when they started shoving debate in my face and said if you don’t get your grades up you can’t go to debate tournaments, you can’t go on debate trips.  And then I started being on top of my stuff, coming to school, getting good grades.  I went from an average of 63 to an average of an 85. - Shantelle G., 9th Grade, Great Debater at the Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice, State Debate Championships Qualifier

Also, without Bronx Law, I would not have been able to go to any of the tournaments, grown as a debater, and grown as an individual over this past year. This school has been the road that led to an open door of endless possibilities. Although we find ourselves at times dealing with budget cuts (that at times do not allow us to and participate in some of the more prestigious tournaments), this never stops all of us at Bronx Law whom are truly dedicated to this activity. From the dedicated coaches at Bronx Law, and the atmosphere of having hard working kids from 6th to 12th grade, I encounter myself with many types of personalities. From those least experienced in middle school, to debaters who have been doing it since middle school and are now juniors; Bronx Law is one big family, joined together by our desire to go far. Overall, I am more than grateful for the opportunities that have arisen from getting involved in this activity. I am also more than grateful for being apart of the debate team at the Bronx School for Law Government and Justice. These past few months debating at the few national circuit tournaments and at the local tournaments have given me the hope and motivation to return next season and do better with my partner in the national circuit, and to become a true competitor. This giving the Bronx Law for Government and Justice the recognition it deserves for giving many minority students the opportunity to excel in such a rich and life changing activity. - Lenny Herrera, 11th Grade Great Debater at the Baccalaureate School, Octofinalist at the Harvard University Debate Invitational

I've never had a computer at home.  This year my coach gave me a laptop which helped me greatly.   Last year as a debater I only had a very small amount of evidence and arguments because my only medium of carrying my evidence was paper.  This takes away from the essence of debate, which is to broaden your horizons by learning several things all at once.  Now with my laptop I can download several pieces of evidence allowing my partner to defeat teams as well as gain so much more knowledge in and out of our various rounds.  This is also how I have begun to create my own arguments and bring my personal talents to the debate community.  This is why technology is extremely important for debaters like myself. - Petergaye Laine, 8th grade Bronx Great Debater at the Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice, 1st Place Best Speaker at both the New York City Debate Championships and New York State Debate Championships, 1st Place Best Debate Team at both the New York City Debate Championships and New York State Championships, and accepted to the Bronx High School of Science, one of the best high schools in America.

I’m volunteering at Mott Hall.  I have been volunteering for the past couple of months.  I have been teaching not only the students, but the teachers as well.  I’m very lucky to teach these kids, because I’m able to spread the knowledge of debate on to a younger generation. We held a tournament at the Bronx School for Law, Government, and Justice, and after the tournament finished the kids were super excited.  Jessica, one of the top three speakers was super excited, and ever since that time, she has been attending debate practice and they have been researching and practicing for the new topic.  - Annie Chen, 11th grade student, Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice, Assistant Debate Coach

Debate and Mock Trial have been the building blocks to success and accomplishment throughout high school for myself. It has been the ability to obtain large amounts of information, to process complicated literature, and support my arguments that has been skills highly used in the process of achievement and success in high school, and in hopes throughout life. I am the girl who came to school who’s palms began to sweat and checks turned pink when asked to speak in front of a audience, even simple tasks such as answering a question in class, and have now become the young adult who views the courtroom as a stage.  But with participating in these activities, comes the need of resources and supplies. How must I gather analytical arguments when I don’t have computers or printers to print them on? How must I remember arguments, thoughts, and sparks of ideas if I don’t have paper to jot them on? How must I acquire information and learn if I don’t have books to read from? It has been these contributions by you that have made opportunities possible.  I thank you so much.” - Viktoria Pashtriku, 12th grade, Great Debater at the Bronx School for Law, Government, and Justice, 1st Place Best Speaker at the New York State Debate Championships, Semifinalist Best Debate Team at the New York State Debate Championships, 2nd Place Best Debate Team at the New York City Mock Trial Championships

If I would have to choose one thing I have done that has changed my life for the better, it definitely would be joining the debate team. It’s a life changing experience for many reasons. Joining the debate team made me a better person as well as a better student. You learn many skills that you can apply to your school work, such as researching, argumentation, time management, and working well with others. As an individual debate teaches one to stand firm by what they believe in. There are actual debaters who debate with real world implications, such as performance debate, where a debater applies personal narratives in a debate round to prove their point. The Bronx Law debate team is composed of students who were really passionate about debate, and how could they not be when they have an amazing coach like Erik Fogel. They are very supportive with all of us. I have never met a coach so passionate about helping students like Mr. Fogel. He has done the impossible for our education, something that not many coaches would do. But he seeks for the best interest of his students and has even stayed up all night just to help us with our research. All of the students have learned from Fogel and grown fond to him for all of his struggles to help us. I had never learned so much about my history and present day life as much as I have in debate. Through debate we travel to many states where schools are even more competitive. The only unfortunate part of all of this is that we are not funded. While other schools have about 5 coaches we only have 1. But we never let that become a problem. We are still a competitive team, regardless of the low funding. It is a pity that many students aren’t able to go to tournaments and go through these amazing experiences because of money problems. If anything, I believe that the debate team should be better funded in order to allow more students into this type of community. It helps one prepare for college, as well as having to balance out schedules. Debate opens doors to many things for a debater. I got straight 90’s on my test in global because I had already learned it through debate. If you are deciding on whether or not this program is worth-while, say no more. Funding this program doesn’t just mean you are helping more students debate. It means that students, who were raised in such bad areas like our neighborhood, can actually have a chance at learning about more than just how to survive on the streets. It allows for more of the youth to be educated. You wouldn’t only be helping another student debate, but help to shape the lives of young individuals towards a road to success. Thank You. -Zully R., 10th Grade, Great Debater at Clinton High School