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Bronx Borough Championships!

PRESS RELEASE:  Bronx Borough Councilman Cabrera continues push for Success of Bronx youth at P.S./M.S. 15 Bronx, New York – The first day of June marks the beginning of a transition for students and teachers across the country. The days – warmer, schools –... read more

Bronx Scrimmage at Dreamyard!

Dreamyard Prep hosted Bronx’s first mini-tournament on Saturday, April 29th! 16 new debaters from Bronx, Queens, and Manhattan debate the Electoral College. Three rounds later, Young Women’s Leadership’s Marsha Darbouze (debating alone!)... read more

NYC High School Debate Tournament Results! (2/11/17)

44 Schools! 286 students! 113 judges! Thank you to everyone for making our largest High School Debate Tournament yet! Thank you so much to Bronx Collaborative High School and the incredible Principal Schneider for being such an incredible host! Thank you to both the... read more

MSQI Debate Championships!

We shout out the Middle School Quality Initiative (MSQI) Championships! Click here for Tournament Photo Album!  Thank you to the Highbridge Green School for hosting!  The Middle School Quality Initiative (MSQI) is the New York City Department of... read more

Celebrating our Bronx Borough Champions!

This weekend for the first time the Boroughs of the Bronx and Queens hosted their Championship Debate Tournaments. Thank you to all schools and students for participating in this historical event! Thank you to New York State Senator Rivera for presenting at the Bronx... read more

Bronx Debate Championships Coming Up!

The Bronx Debate Championships Saturday, April 16th – Preliminary Rounds (PS/MS 15) Monday, April 19th – Final Rounds (Bronx Defenders) Thank you to PS/MS 15 School for Environmental Studies and Coach Ms. Weems for hosting the 2016 Bronx Debate... read more



Our History

In 2011, there were less than two schools in the entire Bronx with debate teams. This was an educational travesty because the Bronx if counted as a city would be the 9th largest city and school system in the United States. The mission of the Bronx Debate League is that every school in the Bronx should have a debate team and every student should have access to the best debate education opportunities.  We started with one school in the Bronx and today we work with over 20 schools.  Thanks to support from the New York City Department of Education and the New York City Council our program is free for Title I schools in the Bronx.

Why Debate

“Competitive debate is one of the great equalizers of educational opportunity.  In a number of respects, competitive urban debate is uniquely suited to building what’s been called the ‘Four C’s’ of 21st century skills—critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. And to that list I might add a fifth ‘C’— for civic awareness and engagement.” – US Secretary of Education honoring our debaters in Washington DC.  Our debaters won 1st in the nation and visited the White House to meet the President.

Through independent peer-reviewed research we know that urban debate prepares students to succeed in school and in life.

90% of urban debaters graduate on time.

72% of urban debaters with the highest risk of dropping out graduate on time.

Each semester that a student debates, his/her grades will improve.

At graduation, the average GPA of an urban debater is 3.23, significantly above the college readiness benchmark.

Debaters are more likely to test as college ready.

After graduating from high school, 86% of urban debaters enroll in college.

Urban debaters are 80% more likely to graduate from college.

Urban debate prepares students for twenty-first century careers.

Our Accomplishments

The Bronx is home to some of the most successful debate teams in the United States.  The Bronx High School of Science is one of the largest and most successful debate teams in the country.  The Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice’s middle school debate program has been one of the top schools in the state and country.  The school’s high school debate team won 1st Place at the National Urban Debate Championships and received multiple bids to the nation’s most prestigious tournament, The Tournament of Champions.   


Interscholastic Debate Program

Our interscholastic debate program or after school debate program supports school based debate teams. We provide monthly tournaments, workshops, professional development, and any other support to start and sustain successful debate teams. We work with the following schools: Mott Hall High School, KAPPA High School, the Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice, Bronx Collaborative Studies, Horace Mann, Cornerstone Academy for Social Action, Democracy Prep Endurance Middle School, Clinton High School, Equality Charter School, Immaculate Conception Middle School, One World Middle School, PS/MS 15 Institute for Environmental Learning, Success Academy I Bronx, Success Academy 2 Bronx, and Eagle Academy for Young Men.

Curricular Debate Programming

In partnership with the Middle School Quality Initiative we work with schools to implement debate across the curriculum in every subject area.  These schools include: MS 223 The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology, Eagle Academy for Young Men, The Highbridge Green School, South Bronx Academy for Applied Media, Frederick Douglas Academy V Middle School, JHS 123 James Kieran, Academy of Public Relations, Urban Science Academy, Urban Assembly School for Applied Math and Science, Accion Academy, PS 0879, IS 232, East Fordham Academy for the Arts, PS 20 P.O. George J. Werdan III

Bronx Debate Tournaments

Our core program are monthly Saturday tournaments.  We provide at least three rounds of debate competitions, workshops, breakfast, lunch and an awards ceremony for all students.

Bronx Summer Debate Institute

Starting in the summer of 2013 we started the Bronx Summer Debate Institute which is a free summer debate program for students in the Bronx.

Bronx Travel Debate Team

We also support travel scholarships for the top high school debaters in the Bronx. This allows Bronx students the opportunity to travel and compete at some of the top tournaments on the East Coast including Harvard University, Yale University, and other out of state and national tournaments.

Bronx Outreach

We have a program director and outreach staff who visit schools in the Bronx to help train teachers who are new to debate and start and sustain successful debate programs.

New York City Urban Debate League Citywide Programs

All our programs throughout the city are available for all Bronx students.  We offer tournaments nearly every weekend, workshops and Debate Nights every month, citywide debate invitationals, summer debate institutes in each borough, the New York City Debate Championships, and other debate opportunities year round.

Student Testimonials

“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

“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. She was accepted to Franklin and Marshall College on a full scholarship from the Posse Foundation).  – Bronx Student and Debater, Maribel Vasquez

“I grew up in the South Bronx.  I always told myself that no matter what was to happen I would make something of myself and I’ve been on that path of doing just that. I have been doing debate for the past 3 years.  It all started as an extracurricular activity but after winning first place in my first debate tournament I became interested in the challenges of public speaking and wanted to see where this could lead me in my future.  Which is why I love the New York City Urban Debate League. You won’t find any activity that makes you think and question so many ideas, read & research so many books, write and speak about the biggest problems in our world, and meet and compete against students across the nation.  As President Obama stated in his speech to American students in 2009 “you may not know you could be a President or Supreme Court justice until you joined your school’s debate team”!  Which is why another one of my role models is Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.  She was also a young hispanic women from the South Bronx who wanted to make more of her life, joined her school’s debate team, went on to college and law school and became the first hispanic justice on the supreme court.”

  – Starr Arroyo, 10th grade Great Debater, November 19th 2012 at the White House and receiving the National Arts and Humanities Youth Award

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, Bronx Debater.  Sorangel received a full scholarship to Columbia University, and received the Gates Millennium Scholarship which pays for all her undergraduate and graduate expenses.  Sorangel is also a staff member with the NYC Urban Debate League and helps to run our Saturday debate tournaments)



September: Season Kick Off Workshop (PS/15 School for Environmental Studies)

October: Bronx Tournament #1 (Thomas Geordano MS 45)

November: Bronx Tournament #2 (One World Middle School)

December: Bronx Tournament #3 (School of Diplomacy)

January: All City Fall Championships (Brooklyn Tech)

February: Bronx Tournament #4 (One World Middle School)

March: Bronx Tournament #5 (Bronx Science High School)

April: Bronx Borough Championships (PS/IS 15 School for Environmental Studies)

May: City Championships (Institute for Collaborative Education)

Summer: Bronx Summer Debate Institute

Bronx Interscholastic Debate Schools

Bronx Alliance Middle School

Bronx School for Collaborative Studies

Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice

Clinton High School

Cornerstone Academy for Social Action

Democracy Prep

Eagle Academy for Young Men

Horace Mann

KAPPA High School

Mott Hall High School

One World Middle School

PS/MS 15 Institute for Environmental Learning

School of Diplomacy

Success Academy I Bronx

Success Academy 2 Bronx


Bronx MSQI Debate Schools

Academy of Public Relations

ACCION Academy

East Fordham Academy for the Arts

Frederick Douglas Academy V Middle School

Highbridge Green School

IS 232

JHS 123 James Kieran

MS 223 The Laboratory School of Finance and Technology

P.O. George J. Werdan III

PS 0879

PS 20

South Bronx Academy for Applied Media

Urban Assembly School for Applied Math and Science

Urban Science Academy

Bronx Debate League in the News

“No Debating this Program’s Value” (Daily News 11/19/12)
“Estudiante busca emular a Sonia Sotomayor” (El Diario 11/21/12)
“The Great Debaters” (Daily News 2/15/11)
“No Debate, They Need the Cash” (Daily News 3/9/09)
“Hard Work Pays Off for Bronx High School Student with Gates Millennium Scholarship Win!” (Daily News 5/311)
New York State Senate Resolution (unanimous passing of legislation honoring the Bronx Debate League)

Bronx Debate League on Television