New York City Urban Debate League

2022 Blog: Keep Up With Our Busy Debaters

April 14: Last practice of the year for our District 7 Travel Team 😭

We had our last practice of the year with the incredible District 7 Travel Team. This standout group of students compete in the regular D7 tournaments and also in our larger Open League. This was our first year trying out a travel team with one of our district partnerships, and if you want to see how it went…just check out the bling🏆  Thanks to their coaches, Ms. Leuzzi and Ms. Kuang, and congrats to the team on an incredible year! 😍 We can’t wait to see how you do in the final district tournament in May.

March 30: Our Debaters React to Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Hearing in USA TODAY

The nomination (and hopefully future confirmation!) of Ketanji Brown Jackson has meant so much to our league and truly reinvigorated us in our mission. Our executive directors and students were honored to speak with USA Today about their reaction to her confirmation hearing. Read the article here.

March 27: Announcing the Members of Inaugural Lawyers’ Advisory Council

Bob Allen: Kirkland & Ellis
Chisom Ananaba: Assistant General Counsel, NYC Mayor’s Office of Media & Entertainment
Eun Young Choi: Director, National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team
Matthew Cormack: Counsel, Davis Polk
Hon. John P. Cronan: District Judge, U.S. Southern District of New York
Brad Drummond (Chair): Director, Axiom
Samson Enzer: Counsel, Cahill Gordon & Reindel
Luigi De Ghenghi: Partner, Davis Polk
Amir Ghavi: Partner, Fried, Frank
Cyrus Ghavi: Senior Counsel, NFL
Hon. Kenneth Karas: District Judge, U.S. Southern District of New York
David Kaufman: Partner, Morrison & Foerster
Simone King: Counsel, Vinson & Elkins
Mary Beth Maloney: Partner, Gibson, Dunn
Becky Mangold: Partner, Kobre & Kim
Amisha Mody Mehta: Co-Executive Director, New York City Urban Debate League
Tom Rollins: Founder, The Great Courses
Anjan Sahni: Partern-in-Charge NY, Wilmer Hale
Jennifer Schramm: Partner, King & Spalding
Beesham Seecharan: COO and General Counsel, Matthews South
Ari Micah Selman: Partner, Morgan, Lewis
Darryl Stein: Partner, Kobre & Kim
Yvette Valdez: Partner, Latham & Watkins
Kacey Wolmer: Head of Operational Management, Contingency Capital LLC

The New York Law Journal has covered the story of this incredible group of attorneys, and how they have come together for our students. Connecting our amazing debaters to careers in the law has been a dream of ours for some time, and we’re so happy that it has taken shape.

March 16: District 9 Tournament #2

Our favorite, new district partnership was back for the second tournament of the year and the competition had noticeably heated up!! We welcomed back 155 students from 17 schools in the South Bronx to debate whether or not animal testing is necessary for medical advancements. We also are grateful for the help of 35 volunteer judges who made the event possible.

March 13: We have our Speech Contest winners!

At yesterday’s open league tournament, we announced the winners of first ever Black History Month Speech Contest. This was so much, and we’ll definitely be bringing it back next year. We’re used to seeing our students debate so it was really cool to find out that there are so many natural performers, orators, storytellers and even poets among them. Over 300 people voted on our contest winners!

1st Place: Izzy (PS 84)
2nd Place: Emma (PS 84)
3rd Place: Xavier (Anderson)
4th Place: Lucy (IS 318)
Original Oratory:
1st Place: Kady (PSMS 5)
2nd Place: Alice (Salk School of Science)
3rd Place Chayyah (Brooklyn Green School)

CLICK HERE to watch a compilation of these incredible speech finalists. We love these speakers so much!! Way to go, everyone!

March 12: Open League Tournament w/Guest Speaker Maddie Tomaszewski

Today was our last Open League tournament of the year before our big Championship Tournament schedule for the weekend of April 9th. We were so proud to see how far the students have come since their first tournament in October. It’s honestly unbelievable! We had over 200 middle schoolers go head to head on the parliamentary topics:

  • This House believes the USA should mirror the EU’s prohibition on the future production of combustion engines.
  • This House believes college athletes should be paid.
  • This House would bring extinct creatures back to life.

While at the same time the 144 middle schoolers and 140 high schoolers who compete in Public Forum when head to head on the harms of domestic fracking and the benefits of increasing organic agriculture. The day ended with a talk from the current Associate Director of Personnel at the White House, Maddie Tomaszewski. Read more of her incredible bio in the image below. We hope all of our younger debaters (especially the young women) felt inspired by Ms. Tomaszewski’s incredible career!

March 1: We wish Happy Women’s History Month to our league’s phenomenal women

The New York City Urban Debate League would like to salute all of our phenomenal women. From our incredibly hard-working coaches to our generous volunteers. From our engaged, supportive partners to the hundreds of young women who wrote their very first debate case this year and especially to those who stuck with it.  We see you. We support you. You are PHENOMENAL!

CLICK HERE to watch our salute to the women of the NYCUDL from the women of the NYCUDL 🙂

Feb 28: Vote for the Finalists in our Black History Month Speech Contest

On February 1st, we released submission details for our first ever Black History Month Speech Contest. Students had the option to write an original oratory exploring their relationship to Black History Month or recite a speech from a famous Black American. We were blown away with the results–recitations from the work of Amanda Gorman, Sojourner Truth, Maya Angelou, original poetry, powerful stories of personal experiences about being Black in America. Our debaters continue to impress with their astute and empathetic observations of the world around them.

CLICK HERE to enjoy all the finalist speeches and vote for your favorite!

Feb 18: District 7 Coaching Training

Our executive directors and programming staff met with coaches from District 7 in the Bronx today. It was such a nice time being back in person with some of our favorite people. They hosted a training session to prep the coaches to take our awesome District 7 debaters to the next level for their tournament in May. They will be debating whether or not zoos should be banned. We’re so grateful to the incredible coaches whose time and energy make debate possible. Good luck to your teams!

Feb 17: District 16 Kick Off

We’re over the moon to re-launch our District 16 partnership this year! This Thursday we got the opportunity to meet with over one hundred students from our district partnership and give them their very first taste of debate! Students met with our programming leaders and other staff to do breakouts where they learned debate basics and to start to get excited about competing on their teams. Introducing new students to this incredible activity really never gets old!

FEB 12: Open League Tournament with Guest Speaker–Fred Moten

It was so fun to be back in full swing with another open league middle and high school tournament. At this point in the year, the debaters are competing with confidence–it’s so fun to see all of the improvement. We hosted over 600 debaters from 60+ schools. Our middle school Parli debaters tackled issues on the prohibition of combustion engines, school uniforms, and the ethicality of eating meat. On the Public Forum side, we saw over 300 rounds on the harms of domestic fracking and Turkey’s membership in NATO. Before the day was done, we were so excited to welcome our guest speaker, Fred Moten, to speak to the debater’s prior to the Awards Ceremony. We loved having Mr. Moten, and his talk was a highlight of the day and also this whole academic year for us. We’ll end this post with his some of his beautiful words:

“There is an interesting connection, I think, between poetry and debate. It’s really all about, in a certain sense, making resolutions. And those resolutions are not just formulations you make about how the world is, or what a plant looks like, or what a piece of a cake tastes like, or how it feels to be in love, or how it feels to be with your friends–but the resolutions are also about how it is that in uttering those things you resolve to make the world better that you live in. You realize that you’re not just talking about the world, you’re making the world that you live in.”

FEB 9: InTech Academy goes head to head with Council Member Dinowitz

What could be more fun than spending the day with our debaters from In-Tech Academy in the Bronx? Watching them debate a NYC Council Member maybe?! District 11 Council Member Eric Dinowitz came out to debater our students and let’s just say they were up to the challenge! Real-life politicians have nothing on these future leaders! Zoom into see if you can see Councilman Dinowitz getting nervous.

FEB 7 & 8: District 7 In-Person Tournaments

It’s a good day when we get to see your students in person–we were so lucky to have two such good days in a row this week! We did one day with our elementary school debaters and one day with our awesome middle schoolers. The tournaments were exclusive for our schools in District 7 in the south Bronx. We love these awesome debaters!  The students debated the topic—Resolved: All Public Schools Should Start After 8:30am. Check out all this good energy!!


FEB 6: Advanced Parli Tournament in Debate Club

We challenged our middle schoolers who’ve been doing our Sunday morning program for awhile by having them tackle two topics this session with two separate tournaments (only four weeks to prep for each). We like to encourage the extemporaneous style with our parli debaters so this shorter prep time gave them a chance be brave and lean on some other skills. It was a very fun day! They will join the rest of the labs in our club-wide tournament on Sunday, March 13th. We’re looking forward to it!

Click: Register for Spring Session of Debate Club

FEB 4: Fred Moten Book Club

We’re pretty excited for MacArthur fellow, cultural theorist, and poet, Fred Moten, to be our guest speaker for our Feb 12th open league tournament. In preparation, the NYCUDL staff had our own “Undercommons” book club. We specifically unpacked the essay “The University and the Undercommons” and discussed how Moten’s ideas relate to our society, our debate league, and our inidividual lives. So excited to meet you this weekend, Mr. Moten!

Click: Learn more about Fred Moten’s work

JAN 29: Bomb Cyclone Tried to Stop our MSQI Tournament and Failed 😎

We partner with the NYC Department of Education’s Middle School Quality Initiative and, as part of our partnership, had been planning a live tournament in Queens for the six hundred students who participate. With the Omicron surge and the winter storm prediction, everyone had to work fast to move the tournament online. Luckily, we have systems well in place for such an occasion! We’re so proud to report that our tournament went off without a hitch! We’re endlessly impressed with how adaptable our students, coaches, and volunteers are; the 300 teams (including 12 bi-lingual teams) who planned to attend the tournament all competed in three rounds online on Saturday. Their topic was Resolved: All Public Schools Should Have the Ability to Ban Books. It was nice to see top honors spread out pretty evenly amongst the competing schools. It’s hard to believe we have to wait until May for the next MSQI tournament! Check our website for opportunities to get involved as a volunteer judge.

Click: Read the Epicenter NYC Write-Up of This Tournament

JAN 26: Our District 7 tournament was one for the books!

What could be more fun than a District 7 debate tournament on a Wednesday afternoon? The NYCUDL has several district partnerships where we grow debate programs in more focused way with our partners there. All the schools and students who competed in this Wednesday tournament hail from School District 7 in the South Bronx. The students debated the topic—Resolved: All Public Schools Should Start After 8:30am. We can’t wait for their next tournament in May.

JAN 17: We celebrated MLK Day with our students today

What better way to honor the life of Dr. King than in the company of our favorite people- our wonderful students!? We started the morning with a debate fundamentals workshop with our awesome Title 1 school debaters. After that we welcomed students from our league schools and Debate Club to be together for a viewing of “Boy King” a documentary about Dr. King as a young boy. The movie viewing was followed by discussion and an activity. We hope our debaters feel inspired about the future– we are so proud they will be the ones shaping it.

JAN 16: Job Skills Workshop for Youth Leaders was very fun and informative

Our Youth Leadership program consists of ten amazing students who excelled as Summer Leaders and through the program are now making an even bigger commitment to the NYCUDL. We have been so lucky to have their help this year—room running at tournaments, helping with workshops, judging, co-coaching Debate Club, (creating literal apps!!) for our judges and coaches. There’s truly nothing they can’t do. In addition to their volunteer work, the league offers  intermittent workshops on applying to college, resume writing, job skills, etc. We had an awesome workshop today on “How To Be Successful in a First Job”, but we can’t tell you all the tricks here—you have to be a Youth Leader!

JAN 9: Debate Club is off to a great start!

We kicked off winter session on  with 72 debaters in our Sunday morning club. There has been eager embrace of the club topics on fracking (high school), gambling (middle school), and the ethics of eating meat (elementary). We are always surprised and delighted by the academic energy these debaters display at 9:30am on Sunday morning! It’s incredible. Here are a few pictures from today’s session in the Orange Lab. These students maybe the youngest in the club, but they are not to be underestimated!



JAN 8: And just like that…our first tournament of the New Year was a blast! 

This year we really hit the ground running!  We had our first open league tournament just one week into the new year. Was it a whirlwind to prep for? Yes! Was it an incredible time? Of course, yes! We had 49 schools and over 250 teams compete, and we welcomed Academy for Conservation and Sciences to the league. We also welcomed back Edward R. Murrow High School and Central Park East High School. So good to see familiar faces! The tournament ended with incredible guest speaker John M. Bredehoft, alum of Cardinal Spellman, one of our league schools. The students were inspired to hear about his journey from high school debate in the Bronx to Harvard Law. We also announced our new league topic for public forum: “On balance, the benefits of domestic fracking outweigh the harms.” We can’t wait to learn more from our students about this important issue next month! Thank you to our incredible coaches and volunteers who never stop working hard for the students.

JAN 6: Our January newsletter is out!

Check out The Resolution this month for a look back at the District 9 debut tournament and our third open league tournament in December. We also cover all events coming up in January including our next MSQI and open league tournament, as well as our first District 7 tournament of the year! It’s gonna be a busy month. See how you can support and get involved!

Click: Read January news here!

DEC 30: How do you measure a year?

We crunched the numbers and 2021 was quite a year! We are proud to have served 2,671 students from 163 schools. And who can count the cases, block files, ballots, volunteer judges, coach trainings, and everything else it takes for our students to have this activity? We’re so excited to bring debate to even more students in 2022.

Click: Donate and help us create more debate access in the new year!

DEC 27: We are now accepting crypto currency donations!

Our debaters have been working hard to learn about crypto regulations for a recent resolution, and we’ve been learning right along side them.  The NYCUDL is proud to now accept cryptocurrency donations through The Giving Block. Now you have even more ways to support our students. Become one of our first cryptocurrency donor’s today!

Click:Watch our students debate cryptocurrency! Click: Donate cryptocurrency


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