Top Silver Creek Debaters Compete in Saint George's Invitational in WA state!

Last week, SVUDL Silver Creek sophomores Jasleen Randhawa and Christina Vo traveled with Head Coach Jimi Morales to Spokane, WA to complete in the inaugural Saint George’s Invitational Tournament.

SVUDL was the only Bay Area team and the only Urban Debate League team competing in the tournament. SVUDL’s travel and lodging were made possible by a scholarship fund created by the parents of the Saint George’s Debate Club, and cold weather attire for our students was donated by Dress for Success San Jose (our neighbors in the Sobrato Center for Nonprofits) and our staff members. Randhawa and Vo were selected because their team won first place in the first SVUDL intra-league tournament in October (they also won the overall SVUDL tournament in February).

Randhawa loves to volunteer with children at her local public library helping to teach them to read and leading story time and arts and crafts activities when she's not competing in debate tournaments. She was excited to kick off the national season in Spokane and looks forward to the spring competition season, especially the UC Berkeley tournament. Randhawa hopes to work with children either in medicine or law in the future. 

Vo can be found bouncing around campus as an officer of four different clubs including the Pre-Med club that she founded at the beginning of the school year. She is excited to continue growing as a debater and enjoys facing increasingly difficult competition. Vo hopes to one day work as a surgeon. 

Randhawa and Vo competed in six over two days rounds and ended the tournament with a 1-5 record. They immensely enjoyed the experience and the opportunity to compete against some of the top varsity teams from across the country.

Announcing SVUDL's New Executive Director

The Silicon Valley Urban Debate League (SVUDL) is pleased to announce that Rolland Janairo is joining the organization as its new Executive Director. 

Born and raised in New York City to parents who immigrated from the Philippines, Rolland has developed a deep appreciation for the transformative power of education as a product of the NYC public school system. While attending and after graduating from Brown University, Rolland volunteered and taught at a preschool in Providence, Rhode Island. He later earned his Masters Degree in Education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. During his time in Boston, Rolland was the Associate Director of Teacher Development at Jumpstart for Young Children, as well as the Director of Playmaker Operations at Life is Good Playmakers. Most recently, Rolland served as the Chief Operating Officer at World Savvy. In his spare time, Rolland enjoys running, cooking, and exploring the Bay Area with his wife and two young boys. 

He looks forward to “working with the SVUDL team to grow and strengthen our partnerships with schools across Silicon Valley, with aspirations to truly set our students up for success in the workforce, higher education, and beyond.”

Debate teaches students to analyze complex issues, formulate evidence-based arguments, and communicate these persuasively. By engaging students in debate, SVUDL empowers low-income youth and unlocks the power of their voices to become advocates for themselves, their future employers and their communities. SVUDL was launched in 2014 to fill a startling gap in after-school academic opportunities in high-poverty schools throughout the Silicon Valley. What began with two pilot programs in August 2014 has since grown to nearly 400 students in 11 schools and organizations. The young people it serves are 70% low-income, 90% of color, and nearly 80% are young women.

SVUDL reaches students who face incredible odds at school and at home as they work to graduate from high school and plan for their futures. Debate - by providing actual portable skills transferable to professions, business and academia - provides a singular opportunity for students to learn to operate effectively within a wide variety of settings and institutions.  Having those skills will enable students to fulfill their potential, achieve their aspirations and to work to shape society in accordance with their values.

New SVUDL Partner Schools and Programs Part 7 of 7: Oxford Day Academy East Palo Alto

Oxford Day Academy

By Amy McElroy 

The new partnership between Silicon Valley Urban Debate League (SVUDL) and Oxford Day Academy (ODA) is rooted in deeply aligned values. Like SVUDL, ODA focuses on building a pipeline of diverse leaders; directly confronting the challenges facing their underserved students from East Palo Alto; adhering to a specialized curriculum, offering opportunity for extracurricular activities, and employing teachers and staff committed to these ideals.

Specifically, ODA’s curriculum model utilizes field experience, small group instruction, independent learning time, as well as one-on-one sessions known as Oxford tutorials. Founded by CEO Mallory Dwinal, the school is well grounded in these fundamentals; Dwinal received her Ph.D. in Education at Oxford University, where she was a Rhodes Scholar. Summer programs and travel to Oxford supplement the curriculum, demonstrating ODA’s commitment to broadening the students’ world view.

Policy debate taught in SVUDL’s after-school program further expands the depth of students’ education at ODA. SVUDL Head Coach Janet Escobedo said, “Oxford Day Academy's curriculum is structured to nurture critical thinking” and discussion-based learning. “Debate fits within this structure,” she explained, because it “helps students develop critical thinking” and provides students with “tools necessary for effective discussion.”

Escobedo knows first-hand the benefits of debate, as someone who grew up in the UDL network. From her hometown of Milwaukee, she considers former UDL Director LaTonya Starks a mentor and role model. Escobedo said, “[LaTonya] was a go-getter—she went above and beyond for her debaters, took extra time to coach us when it came to nationals, and used her connections to help some of her debaters—including me—to receive scholarships to great debate camps across the nation.” The impact of Starks’ efforts continues to drive Escobedo: “I have worked to become someone like her and pay it forward.”

After completing her B.A. in Political Science and International Affairs, with a minor in Urban Education at Georgia State University, Escobedo worked at the Atlanta UDL from 2010 to 2017. She also taught at her “alma mater” UDL through the Milwaukee Debate Institute. Prior to joining SVUDL, she helped students with behavior issues, teaching them to manage conflicts and interact more positively. Her passion for supporting youth and her debate experience provide great assets to the partnership.

“My background helps me connect with the students because they realize that we come from similar backgrounds.” From experience, she realizes it “is comforting to know that someone from a similar community cares enough about them to help them through whatever issues they may be facing at the moment.”

ODA’s other head coach, SVUDL’s Kwodwo Moore also comes from a rich background of UDL training, coaching experience, and demonstrated commitment to youth. He excelled in the Bay Area Urban Debate League (BAUDL) team at Emery Secondary School, then completed BAUDL's Leading With Debate Fellowship. While earning a B.A. in Philosophy at CSU East Bay, he volunteered to coach his high school team, which had lost its coach. As a sophomore, he began volunteering at SVUDL, and later became a teacher at the first and second Summer Institutes.

As explained on ODA’s website, the school’s teachers are equally dedicated and passionate about their students—hearkening back to many of SVUDL’s core intentions. English teacher Ms. McMillion said: “I work at ODA because it strives to sow the true voice of every student who is ready to be heard.”

Socio-Emotional Learning Coaches (SELC) at ODA help guide students toward both academic success and overall quality of life. “Coming from Richmond, California,” SELC Mr. Magana said, “I know the stigmas and statistics that kids of this East Palo Alto community have to face in order to aspire for something greater than what they were given.” He explained, “By providing the necessary tools of self awareness and self diligence, we hope to have the kids see the true potential in themselves.”

SVUDL’s process encompasses these same goals. Escobedo said, “The most rewarding thing is to see the self-esteem and confidence of the students grow with every debate round, especially with every win that they may have thought was going to be a loss.”  

While ODA only recently opened its doors in 2017, already SVUDL is confident in the strength of their shared ideals. Escobedo is optimistic about the future of this alliance. The program provides students the important “incentive to continue with the activity of debate,” she said. “I envision the overall goals of SVUDL coming to fruition through the ODA partnership.”

SVUDL # 2 Tournament Results 12-8-18

Here are the results from our second intra-league tournament held on Saturday, December 8, 2018 at Yerba Buena High School in San Jose.

62 SVUDL Debaters participated in a full day of energetic and rigorous debate rounds. 

48 students participated in the Varsity rounds; top varsity honors went to the team of Daksh Jain and Pranav Singamsetty of Silver Creek High School in San Jose and Jain was also the top Varsity Speaker.

14 students participated in the Novice rounds; top novice honors went to the solo team of Paulina Gutierrez Carmona from College Track in East Palo Alto and she was also the top Novice speaker.

Final Results: Varsity Teams

Final Results: Varsity Speakers

Final Results: Novice Teams

Final Results: Novice Speakers

SVUDL wishes to thank all the tournament judges (*=SVUDL alumnus, **=SVUDL board member, ***=SVUDL Partner School Teacher):
Amy Badiani
Dan Barritt
Jim Basile**
Mecca Billings
Lauren Brady
Rob Burns
David Cattivera
Janet Escobedo
Aileen George***
Andrew Gold
Willie Hernandez**
Chris Hersey**
Rolland Janairo
Raghav Kaul
Kimberly Lam*
Jenet Manuel
Ryan Mills
Brandon Montes*
Omandi Moore
Peter Otte***
Jennie Savage**
Harold Wang
Kenneth Woods***

We also want to thank:

  • The entire staff at Yerba Buena High School for hosting us!

  • Washington High School (Fremont) student and debater Gandhar Mannur for his awesome support with the Tabroom system!

  • SVUDL Board member Jennie Savage and AR/VR Associate General Counsel at Facebook Charlotte Lewis Jones for securing donations of business attire for our students to own and wear in tournaments! The students had a great time "shopping" for their new debate looks at the tournament.

  • Jessica Garcia-Kohl, new Executive Director of the Westly Foundation, for attending!

  • SVUDL Team Member Lisa Walstrum for picking up the clothing donations at Facebook and borrowing clothing racks from a theatre company!

New SVUDL Partner Schools and Programs Part 6: Downtown College Prep El Primero High School San Jose

Downtown College Prep El Primero High School

By Amy McElroy

On the East Side of San Jose, the Silicon Valley Urban Debate League (SVUDL) recently collaborated with Downtown College Prep El Primero High School (DCP) to create a new debate program. DCP focuses on the need to educate and nurture students to become the first generation in their families to attend and graduate from college. This high school, guiding underserved students to and through college, is precisely the kind of place SVUDL believes debate should thrive.

Head Coach of the new debate team Andrea Fazel said: “DCP is committed to preparing first generation students for college success, and debate is absolutely part of that vision!” Fazel is a second-year teacher of English, Government, and Law at DCP—where curriculum trains students in independent learning, problem-solving, and critical thinking. Debate offers an opportunity to amplify those skills. “Students are engaging in high-level thinking, wrestling with complex issues, and using their voice to speak out,” Fazel said. “All of this will help our students be more confident and successful in college and beyond.”

DCP’s model highlights the connection between college and a student’s ability to change the world. The model states, in part, that “DCP fosters opportunities for critical self-discovery through our College Success Framework that addresses the academic, college and socio-emotional needs of every student. We work to offer students both traditional and innovative opportunities to be well-rounded college applicants and change-makers.”

Fazel believes the alignment between the missions at DCP and SVUDL demonstrates the benefit of this partnership: “Both DCP and SVUDL are committed to making sure doors of opportunity stay open for our students, and build student confidence that they belong anywhere that important decisions are being made.”

DCP creates an environment with free, college prep curriculum. This basic foundation is supplemented with Pre-College Enrichment summer programs and internships. The school begins introducing diverse college options in 5th grade and employs counselors who assist every student in completing the college application process. DCP also engages families in the college selection process, with detailed financial aid assistance. The school’s Broad Alumni Success program includes counseling, networking, financial and other types of support services during college.

Since its founding in 2004, DCP has operated on a similar guiding principle as SVUDL—that “DCP graduates must surmount challenges both academic and personal to become the first in their family to graduate from college (emphasis added).” The school has a tremendous track record of helping their students meet those obstacles. “DCP alumni have among the highest rates of college matriculation and are four times more likely to graduate from college than their peers nationwide,” according to the school’s data. DCP attributes its ongoing success to a set of central guiding “values – ganas [desire to succeed], comunidad, [community] and orgullo [pride].”

After 17 years of teaching experience, Fazel recently said: “I love working at DCP because there is nothing quite so energizing as being part of a community that is so mission-driven. Watching students get excited about their futures and come to believe in their own futures keeps me excited to teach!” Recognized as the 2016 Street Law Educator of the Year, Fazel graduated from UC Davis King Hall School of Law, where she competed nationally in Moot Court competitions, and won a national civil rights moot court competition. Throughout her career, Fazel has worked to bring together her passions for law and education. “I have worked in schools with a similar mission,” she said, “ensuring college success for all students, and in particular, increasing the diversity of the pipeline into law-related careers.” 

SVUDL’s team liaison for DCP, Rob Burns said Fazel’s combined teaching and legal background makes her a perfect fit for this partnership. According to Burns, Fazel “really cares and understands” the deeper goals of the program.

Their mutual respect is one reason this partnership flourishes. As a teacher new to competitive debate, Fazel said Burns provides her with “invaluable” assistance. “I am so grateful for Rob's support in developing a new debate program at DCP,” Fazel said. “He brings so much enthusiasm and passion for debate, and fires up students to push themselves beyond what they thought their limits were.”

Burns explained that the current debate topic, immigration, connects on a personal level to many students at DCP—with a demographic that is 96 percent Latino. The students have a wealth of knowledge about the subject matter already, even before they begin any research. Despite his extensive background coaching debate in underserved communities, Burns said he’s learning a great deal from the students who share stories from their community. For debaters at DCP, he said, “The importance of what we’re discussing takes on a whole other level of sharpness and importance.”

Already this fall, DCP students have employed their newly developed skills in competitive settings. DCP fielded three teams at the first SVUDL tournament of the season, and one student placed in the top five speakers in his first tournament experience.

Following a November event, Burns said, “I am very proud of our freshmen. Each team was able to win their first varsity debate round, and had the opportunity to face some of the best debaters in our region. They look forward to continuing to develop their skills, and can't wait for the next tournament!”

According to Fazel, “We now have an energized debate club, and Rob has been so generous with his time and energy to support the students who are showing a passion for debate. As far as I'm concerned, the sky's the limit for this partnership!”

 

New SVUDL Partner Schools and Programs Part 5: Yerba Buena High School San Jose

Yerba Buena San Jose

By Amy McElroy

Under the leadership of head coach Rob Burns, the Silicon Valley Urban Debate League (SVUDL) recently teamed up with Yerba Buena San Jose (YBSJ) to create the school’s first debate program. YBSJ is located in East San Jose, where the student body is primarily comprised of people of color and more than two thirds are economically disadvantaged. The school emphasizes college readiness by preparing its students to excel on college boards and Advanced Placement (AP) tests. Having coached in diverse settings over the course of two decades, Burns understands how debate can help prepare students—not only for these types of academic exams, but also for future career opportunities.

According to Burns, debate teaches students to “examine and analyze texts in critically high pressure situations.” He explained that “[i]n a world of high stakes testing,” debate is the perfect preparation for reading, analyzing, and responding to texts in a detailed way—using “evidence based argumentation.” Overall, Burns believes debate “prepares students for the SAT and AP tests in a way that no other extracurricular does.”

Those same skills learned in debate will carry students beyond college admittance, into college level coursework. “As I’ve told principals and others at the school,” Burns said, “the more students are involved with debate, the more prepared they will be for college.” As a former high school debater who attended college on a debate scholarship, he describes participation in debate as “unparalleled” when it comes to college readiness.

Burns began his coaching career as an assistant during college at Liberty University and Wheaton College. But since that time, he said, “I’ve worked a lot with urban students and in urban contexts.” And he’s done so with great success. For instance, at North Star Academy in Newark, he coached two New Jersey Novice State Champions and the first varsity policy team in New Jersey history to win the prestigious Harvard debates. Last year, two of his teams finished as quarterfinalists and octafinalists at the 2018 Tournament of Champions.  

In this new partnership, Burns said, “I try to present debate in a way that can connect with the students at Yerba Buena.” He noted the multi-racial population and the economic challenges confronting many of the students. Because of his past work in similar environments, he’s able to connect with YBSJ’s student body. He draws on his experience working with students facing the same “logistical and practical issues that [YBSJ’s] students face.”

Burns coaches alongside a faculty advisor in the newly-formed, after-school debate program. “I really just love the teacher that I’m working with, Michael Low,” Burns said. “He does an excellent job of not lowering expectations. He expects that students will be able to understand complex ideas.” As a result, Burns explained, “The students are all willing to take on complex issues and do the reading. It’s not always easy to get students to take on issues of race or cultural issues. But there’s a culture [Low has] created that encourages them to take on difficult social issues.”

According to Burns, the larger culture surrounding YBSJ is also supportive of the students and fosters the success of the SVUDL partnership. He specifically noted: “the interest of the community in the school, the huge new community center, and the parents—who are great.” At YBSJ, Burns values what he sees as “the best of public education, when it’s connected to community, as well.”  

In Burns’ view, the overall objectives of SVUDL and YBSJ align well to create opportunities. In particular, YBSJ’s mission to create a “safe accepting and motivating academic environment that challenges and empowers its diverse population…” to “be prepared to successfully participate in society” echoes Burn’s primary goals for the debate program.

On a fundamental level, through SVUDL, Burns strives to promote success among diverse students in the legal field. “We want to increase participation of students of color in law and politics,” he said. “Part of the work really advances that goal because there are a lot of women of color” who make up a majority of YBSJ’s debate program who are “really getting interested in issues of asylum law.” Then, when they go to tournaments, students learn skills and make connections to the legal community, which help advance their careers.

But Burns sees a secondary goal to debate, related to the obstacles that these underserved students face. He spoke of the need to bridge barriers of financing and opportunity through scholarships and academic achievement. He also addressed students’ mental and emotional barriers: the way students perceive government has treated them, and their natural and legitimate suspicion toward the law. In the context of debate, Burns explained, “We give students the opportunity to reflect on things they feel rightfully angry or skeptical about.” With respect to hurdles faced by students at YBSJ, he said, “Debate attacks many of those varying factors at once.”

Burns wants to show his students how to “use law and policy to transform their world instead of seeing it as something done to them—to convince them of their own agency.” Only then will many of these students “envision themselves as future lawyers and policymakers.” But he believes we can “close the gap through debate.” According to Burns, “The most important thing is that students recognize they have a voice that belongs in the halls of power—that they imagine themselves as belonging there. That law and politics is not a natural disaster that happens to them, but something that they can have a voice in.”

With Low’s help, Burns hopes to grow the SVUDL partnership at YBSJ. “The more students I can get interested in debate, the more I can fulfill that goal—connecting to those students, and helping them envision themselves in these fields.”

 

New SVUDL Partner Schools and Organizations Part 4: KIPP San Jose Collegiate

New SVUDL Partner Schools and Organizations for the 2018-19 School Year

Part 4: KIPP San Jose Collegiate
By Amy McElroy

This year, Silicon Valley Urban Debate League (SVUDL) has partnered with KIPP San Jose Collegiate (KSJC) to create new opportunities for students. Across the Bay Area and the nation, KIPP schools are grounded in the idea of generating more choices for young people in underserved communities. KSJC invested in its students; the school maintains a 90 percent college matriculation rate and a comprehensive long-term outreach program. Through debate, SVUDL is helping KSJC students hone their skills and perspectives as they work toward their chosen career paths.

With significant background teaching at KIPP schools and coaching with Urban Debate League (UDL) programs, Kim Vo is distinctively qualified to guide the students in this partnership. After receiving a Master’s degree from Columbia University, Vo began her debate coaching career at the Atlanta Urban Debate League (AUDL) while teaching at a local school there. After two years, she began teaching at KIPP Atlanta Collegiate where she created a debate team. That year, the team won the urban city championship and Vo received the AUDL’s Coach of the Year Award.

Now at KSJC—where Vo teaches World History and AP World History and serves as the Chair of the History Department—her debate legacy follows her. “When I moved to San Jose three years ago,” she said, “two students who debated in middle school asked me to start a debate team at (KSJC) after hearing about my experiences in Atlanta.” She did so, and allowed them to acquire experience competing in debate. “This is their first year participating in SVUDL,” Vo said.

Through debate, students gain essential critical thinking skills, which KSJC places foremost in its curriculum. “We do a lot of Socratic Seminars and argumentative claims and writing” in the classroom, Vo explained. “Debate fits in well because it teaches students to research, understand all POVs and perspectives, make claims and find evidence to support their claim.” 

Teaching KSJC students to debate inspires Vo. “The students I teach are wonderful people,” she said. “They are caring, passionate, and motivated individuals who recognize the oppression and injustices in the world.” She is grateful for the opportunity to coach students who “aspire to become active citizens by advocating for members of their community.” 

Vo’s experience teaching debate at KSJC lines up with the school’s mission that its “graduates will use their education and life experiences to make positive change in their own lives, within the East San Jose community, and among our global society.”

Part of the school’s strategy for achieving this lifetime of change includes long-term outreach that extends through college and beyond. During high school, students receive focused guidance in all areas of college readiness through academic preparation, counseling, standardized test prep, college tours, application assistance, and even college savings through 529 accounts. Transitional support into college provides individual counseling to answer questions and provide emotional guidance. The KIPP Through College Program offers individual advising through on-campus visits, an alumni internship program, career development programs, and strong college partnerships to ensure not only college recruiting but retention, graduation, and entry into the working world.

This early pipeline approach resembles the SVUDL model for helping more underserved students succeed through high school, college, and find success in their chosen careers. SVUDL debate and mentor programs start at the high school level, with those mentors continuing to offer their guidance and support through college and law school.

According to Brandon Brown, a member of SVUDL’s Legal Advisory Committee and a partner at Kirkland & Ellis: “[O]ne of the best ways to ensure our law schools have a diverse population of exceptional candidates is to ensure that diverse high school students feel they can head in that direction. SVUDL does that by encouraging voices and empowering the disenfranchised.”

Vo has been a strong mentor for KSJC’s racially diverse population. In particular, she explained: “As a POC who represents 30% of my student population, I feel that more Asian students want to participate because we are breaking the stereotype that Asian students are quiet and are subservient.”

Overall, Vo sees the debate program blossoming at KSJC. “I love seeing my students find their voice and be passionate about their arguments.” She hopes the partnership with SVUDL will create more opportunities for KSJC students to debate. She finds “[w]hen students participate in the tournaments, they become more invested and want to debate more.” Vo hopes the debate program at KSJC will take on a life of its own that will survive long after she’s left the school someday.

Through this partnership with KSJC, SVUDL is proud to help promote one of the school’s highest values: options. At this Title I, urban school, Vo found “debate offers students choices—a choice to become more involved in school, a choice to build a community with their peers, a choice to sacrifice their weekends to participate in the tournaments, a choice to learn what skills they can learn from debate, a choice of what career or schools they want to attend.”

SVUDL Fall Season Tournament Opener Results 10-13-18

70 SVUDL Debaters participated in our first fall tournament on Saturday, October 13, 2018. Click this link to watch a video of the students arriving!

30 students participated in the Varsity rounds; top varsity honors went to the team of Jasleen Randhawa and Christina Vo from Silver Creek High School in San Jose and to top speaker Osvaldo Mendoza from KIPP San Jose Collegiate in San Jose.

40 students participated in the Novice rounds; top novice honors went to the team of Dania Fermin and Sofia Funk from Cristo Rey San Jose Jesuit High School and Sofia Funk was also the top Novice speaker.

Here are all of the results from the tournament:

Varsity Policy 15 entries - 30 students total

KIPP San Jose Collegiate - 5

Oak Grove - 1

Silver Creek - 9

1st  - Jasleen Randhawa and Christina Vo - Silver Creek

2nd- Daksh Jain and Pranav Singamsetty - Silver Creek

3rd-Osvaldo Mendoza and Celine De Villa - Kipp

4th- Avi Goel and Rutvik Gandhasri - Silver Creek

5th - Sandy Ouk and Tiffany Tran - Silver Creek

Varsity Top Speaker - Osvaldo Mendoza - KIPP San Jose Collegiate

Novice  21 entries - 40 students total

College Track - 1

Cristo Ray - 4

DCP - 3

Kipp - 4

Oak Grove - 1

Oxford Day  -2

Yerba Buena - 6

1st - Dania Fermin and Sofia Funk - Cristo Rey

2nd - Moises Ron-Lopez and Andre Pham - KIPP San Jose Collegiate

3rd - Vanessa Gudino  and Mateo Diaz - Cristo Rey

4th - Zariah Best and Kastella Nguyen - Yerba Buena 

5th - Paulina Guiterrez Carmona & Jules Thomas - College Track

Novice Top Speaker - Sofia Funk - Cristo Rey

SVUDL wishes to thank Santa Clara University (SCU) for hosting us and our judges for the event (*=SVUDL alumnus, **=SVUDL board member): 
Saya Abney
Isaiah Aguirre*
Antonia Barona*
Dan Barritt
Jim Basile**
David Cattivera
Luis Cruz
James Davis
Alan Fishman
Alma Ibok
Raghav Kaul
Michael Low
Ryan Mills
Brandon Montes*
Peter Otte
Alexander Rafi
Marybelle Uk*
Harold Wang
Kenneth Woods
Stanley Young

New SVUDL Partner Schools and Organizations for the 2018-19 School Year

Part 3: Summit Public Schools, Rainier Campus, San Jose with Summit Head Debate Coach Aileen George and SVUDL Coach Liaison and Head Coach Jimi Morales By Amy McElroy

One of Silicon Valley Urban Debate League’s (SVUDL’s) seven new partner schools, Summit Rainier, was founded in 2011 by a group of parents from East San Jose seeking a high quality education for their students. Together, SVUDL and Rainier will continue to deliver on the school’s commitment to outstanding academic achievement and college prep in this diverse environment. SVUDL will help create even more opportunities for students at Rainier—which already ranks in the top 20 schools in Santa Clara County, with a proud tradition of admitting 100 percent of its students to four year colleges.

Aileen George, the school’s new Dean of Instruction and Culture, said, “[W]e offer a wide variety of clubs to address our diverse population and their interests.” George, who also serves as Head Debate Coach, explained: “Here at Rainier, debate is an after-school activity” and said “coaching debate is the happiest part of my experience as an educator.” Deeply invested in coaching, she added, “As a debate coach for the last 7 years, it has meant so much to me to see the impact this activity has on students.”

Like other coaches at SVUDL, over time George has witnessed profound changes occur for debaters: “I've watched children come out of their shells, become more confident, and transform over the course of a debate season. I've seen students cry during their first practice from nerves grow to become city-wide champions. I've seen students with speech impediments who struggled socially become the most dynamic and popular kid on the competition circuit.” 

A similar kind of transformation happened for Rainier’s SVUDL coach liaison Jimi Morales. Morales learned the value of debate when it helped him find purpose in high school and overcome a troubling stammer. He placed in the top 21 in the National Forensics League (NFL) Nationals and later received the Williams/Sloane Collin Passionate Public Speaking Prize for Social Justice, while on full scholarship as a first-generation college student at Williams College. Since that time, Morales has coached debate in summer programs, high schools, and as a private instructor. At Rainier, he’s now thriving in a role that allows him to help debaters with backgrounds similar to his own.

Both Morales and George work with students to improve critical thinking, problem solving, and communication skills—all of which are fundamental to Rainier’s project-based learning curriculum. George said her participation as a student debater taught her these skills, directly affecting the trajectory of her career: “Debate gave me presentation skills that helped me flourish as a teacher, interviewer, workshop leader, and professional.”

Another aspect of Rainier’s curriculum focuses on imitating real-world experiences in work-like settings. SVUDL’s debate program provides students the opportunity to argue topical, real-world issues in moot court settings—sometimes in front of actual judges.

The SVUDL debate model provides the type of mentors Rainier values so highly, to guide and support students as they achieve their college and career goals. In line with the school’s goals, debate will help many of its curious students find the type of passion that drives them to a successful and fulfilling life.

George said, “Debate has played a huge role in my life and I believe, without any doubts, that it was the extra-curricular that impacted my success in adulthood the most.” In high school, she became a competitive debate champion and qualified for nationals. Later, she became a member of the DC Urban Debate League, coached high school debate, and won the league’s Coach of the Year award in 2016.

George’s experience with diverse populations and Morales’ own background and history as a coach make them the right choice to lead the partnership between Rainier and SVUDL. George comes to this position ready to teach students “with a wide range of abilities while still helping everyone find success in their own way.”

“I love working with students who are in an environment that allows students to be unapologetically themselves. Here at Rainier, we strive to create a culture that allows students to feel safe and supported,” George explained. “As a result, my new debate team, even in its infancy, is showing these values.” She said the students “are enthusiastic to debate about immigration and have been extremely supportive of each other in having thoughtful discussions.” 

According to George, “SVUDL, like many UDLs, was created as a space for students in local public schools to gain competitive skills and diverse experiences,” She envisions “this partnership will lead to experiences for students that builds them up and gives them a sense of success and commitment that helps them as young adults.”

New SVUDL Partner Schools and Organizations for the 2018-19 School Year

Part 2: College Track and SVUDL Head Coach Kwodwo Moore

By Amy McElroy

College Track, located in East Palo Alto, is more than just another after-school program for underserved students. This comprehensive college prep and support system has helped 95 percent of its high school seniors gain admission to four-year colleges, and more than doubling the national average of college graduation rates for first generation and low-income students. This year, SVUDL and Head Coach Kwodo Moore have teamed up to bring debate to this ambitious organization.

Moore himself shows what the urban debate program can do, having joined the Bay Area Urban Debate League (BAUDL) team as a high school junior and thrived as a public speaker during its Leading With Debate Fellowship. As a freshman at CSU East Bay, Kwodwo volunteered to coach his high school team to save it from vanishing after losing its coach. Coach Moore led the team to great success.

During his Sophomore year at CSU East Bay, he became one of the very first SVUDL volunteers, helping recruit students, running workshops and judging tournaments in East Palo Alto. He taught the next two summers for SVUDL’s Summer Institute. After graduating with a B.A. in Philosophy and receiving the Bassen Award for Philosophy for the second year in a row, Moore was hired as a Head Coach at SVUDL in the fall of 2017.

Like SVUDL, Moore believes College Track strives to provide students strong intellectual and political engagement with the world. As a concrete way to achieve this, College Track sees its role as helping students succeed in college and go on to successful careers. Part of College Track’s mission states: “Creating a pipeline of college graduates from underserved communities is critical to closing the opportunity gap in this country and unlocking the full potential of our nation’s next generation.” Similarly, an article featured in Inside Counsel, How Leading Companies Are Prioritizing Diversity Early in the Pipeline,” makes the case for debate programs like SVUDL as successful career pipelines.

One unique aspect of College Track is that all students are already invested in their own professional futures—thanks to the support of College Track. Co-founders Laurene Powell Jobs and Carlos Watson were working as advisors in East Palo schools when they discovered students who aspired to become first generation college students didn’t have the guidance, personal attention, and the classes they needed to gain acceptance to California State universities.

As a result, the co-founders created College Track: “a comprehensive after-school program that focuses on academics, student life, leadership, and getting into college, and works with students beginning as high school freshman and continuing through their college careers and beyond.” SVUDL mirrors this long-term commitment, which is based on the idea that underserved students are often financially and emotionally unprepared for college. That’s why College Track provides academic, financial, and social and emotional support and advice from senior year to beyond college graduation. Its representatives visit students on their college campuses and provide alumni networking to guide them through the best decisions possible for their futures careers. Since the East Palo Alto campus opened in in 1997, several other College Track locations have spread throughout the country to serve thousands of students and college graduates.

College Track’s success stems, in part, from a comprehensive academic model including tutoring, workshops and seminars, one-to-one case management, significant ACT prep, study groups supported by expert tutors, and specialized Study Squads for struggling students. There’s an expectation to maintain a 3.0 G.P.A. and sufficient ACT scores for college entrance. This is supplemented by community service and extracurricular activity in what’s called “Student Life.” And this is where SVUDL’s debate program fits in.

Moore said the students’ commitment to the debate program makes working with students at College Track particularly rewarding. First, he says, “Students have proactively sought and chose to be a part of debate. Then, the organization is suggesting to them to debate. And because the students are already committed to going to college, there’s a level of buy-in that already exists.”

In addition, the structure of the organization is set up with a great deal of accountability and incentives for students, such as scholarships based on participation in community service hours, extracurricular activities, and attendance at certain meetings. As a result, it’s much easier to get support and encouragement from both parents and other students. “I don’t have to chase parents down for permission slips,” Moore said, and it’s easier for students to find rides to tournaments. College Track allows SVUDL to be an integral part of their program “without over-leveraging ourselves” Moore said.

There’s also a broader sense in which College Track allows SVUDL to reach its goals more efficiently, according to Moore. At other schools, only a certain percentage of the participants would land in the target demographic—even in a school with a high percentage of underserved students. However, at College Track “100 of students of the program are in target demographic” Moore explained, “even if we only teach a small number of students.”

But Moore expects even those numbers to change for the better. ”What I see happening is a developing culture of students in debate, teaching them to do really well, and motivating other students to join.” Gradually, he believes SVUDL will “reach a greater number of students in a meaningful way.”

SVUDL Fall Season Tournament Opener on Saturday, October 13 and Call for Volunteer Judges*

Come and see SVUDL in action and volunteer as a judge at our SVUDL Fall Season Tournament Opener on Saturday, October 13.

This tournament will be held at Santa Clara University (455 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95053) on Saturday, October 13th from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm (breakfast and lunch provided).

Judge volunteers are needed for each round, and highest need for all three rounds.
Round 1 @ 9:45am; Round 2 @ 11:45am; and Round 3 @ 2:30pm

*NO EXPERIENCE IS NECESSARY TO VOLUNTEER AS A JUDGE (Volunteer Judge training will be provided prior to Round 1)

Sign Up Here

Questions? Contact Janet Escobedo jescobedo@svudl.org  or Net Manuel jmanuel@svudl.org

SVUDL Team Wins Stewart Invitational Tournament in September 2018

The Stewart Invitational is a local tournament that gives SVUDL students the opportunity to compete against highly skilled debaters. During the last weekend of September, one of our Silver Creek High School debate teams, coached by Jimi Morales, won the championship!

The SVUDL teams went undefeated in qualifying rounds (one of only two teams to do so) and ultimately defeated the top-seeded team on their way to winning the tournament. And, one of the SVUDL debaters won the 2nd best speaker award for the full tournament.

Congratulations team SVUDL!

New SVUDL Partner Schools and Organizations for the 2018-19 School Year

Part 1: Cristo Rey San Jose Jesuit High School and Meet New SVUDL Head Coach Robert Burns

By Amy McElroy

This fall, the Silicon Valley Urban Debate League (SVUDL) celebrates going back to school by highlighting our new partner schools and a new head coach. The first of these is Cristo Rey San Jose Jesuit High School, located at 1349 East Santa Clara Street in San Jose. The talented staff led by principal Joe Albers, provides college prep academics and professional internships to students in underserved communities.

According to Cristo Rey Board member and SVUDL’s own Board Chair Willie Hernandez, “SVUDL is reaching students from these same communities and teaching critical skills of analytical thinking, argument and communication.” Hernandez, Vice President and Deputy General Counsel of the Legal Department at HPE, said, “It is an honor to bring these two organizations together through this partnership and I look forward to seeing their work together elevate the life success of these young future leaders.”

 Hernandez is joined on the board of Cristo Rey by an impressive list of educators, business people, civic and clerical leaders, and those experienced working with at-risk youth.

The Mission of the larger Cristo Rey Network of 35 schools to “transform urban America one student at a time” dovetails with the SVUDL’s own mission statement: “Through the rigor and excitement of the smart sport of debate, SVUDL helps youth tap the power of their voices to compete, excel, and change the world.”

Likewise, the curriculum at Cristo Rey compliments the overall goals of SVUDL. Focused on preparing students for success in college, the high school’s courses help develop skills such as research, classroom debate, advocating for injustice, political and social involvement. Together, Cristo Rey and SVUDL can help hone these skills and offer students opportunities to improve their public speaking abilities while engaging in competitive debate.  

SVUDL’s newest head coach, Robert Burns, will be guiding the way for these students as they explore the world of debate. As a high school student growing up in Atlanta, debate provided Burns the window for critical reflection on the social and political world around him. While a freshman attending college on a debate scholarship, he qualified to the college national championship. He also worked as an assistant debate coach while an undergraduate, completing his B.A. in 2001.  

After some years teaching college, the research skills and revolutionary ideas Burns learned in debate eventually led him to return to coaching at Lindenwood University in Missouri. Burns recruited and coached the first African American women to win both the CEDA and NDT collegiate national championships. For his work training first year college debaters, Burns received the Dick Stein Coach of the Year award in 2013.

Turning his focus to high school, Burns founded the policy debate team at North Star Academy in Newark, where he taught speech and debate to every grade level from 2014-2018. Burns coached two New Jersey Novice State Champions and the first varsity policy team in New Jersey history to win the prestigious Harvard debates while at North Star. This past year, two of his varsity teams finished as quarterfinalists and octafinalists at the 2018 Tournament of Champions.

Together with the coaching expertise of Burns, SVUDL and Cristo Rey have formed a dynamic new partnership to help underserved students find their voices and bright futures through the power of debate.


Debate and the Real World: Research

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One of the most valuable skills debaters develop is the ability to research. We're not talking about your everyday research for high school term papers, where you only have to focus on building basic understanding of a topic and sharing an opinion on the situation. In debate, you build comfort with masterful, creative research that uncovers hidden biases in an article that could make it unreliable, that identifies new angles to a topic, and that ensures you become a true expert in the topic.

If you are debating about immigration, for example, it's pretty easy to find straightforward research that would be find for a term paper: numbers of immigrants, countries of origin, visa types, famous immigration arguments for and against. A debater, however,  reads and pushes through this surface level information to find deeper insight. They might find speeches from presidents around the world about opinions regarding immigration outside the US. They might uncover seemingly unrelated motivations for visa types.

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This drive and the practice of working to find finding for better information and more understanding translates into success in college, graduate school, and any career track. Most jobs -- Program Manager at a tech company, Attorney at a successful firm, Independent Plumbing Contractor -- require problem solving and learning new things. The ability to think about key questions in creative ways and then dive deep to find reliable information to answer those questions and sets debaters up to achieve success, whatever path they may choose. 

Debate and the Real World: Storytelling

SVUDL strives to help build diversity in the field of law, preparing young debaters with the tools and passion to pursue a legal career. While law is an excellent application of debate skills, debate isn't just for future attorneys! This week we start a series of posts prepared by SVUDL Volunteer of the Year Carolyn Straub, a former debater Carolyn knows firsthand how debate skills transfer to and benefit you across many professional disciplines. This week, she's focusing on storytelling:

If you have ever worked on an opening speech for debate, then you know that crafting a storyline is very important. You need to have a clear idea of the main arguments you want to cover, but having a solid opener and strong closing are equally critical. Together, these pieces create a storyline that weaves an entire debate round together, connecting key examples, ideas, and research across speeches. While creating a storyline is essential it’s also extremely translatable in many other settings.

In most corporate roles, you will be required to present your proposals (for new projects, a product design, operational process, etc) to leadership to gather buy-in and the thumbs up to pursue. The presentation outline for meetings like this basically models that of a debate speech. Your objective remains the same: convince your audience to agree with you. For roles like construction foreman, plumber, or other client facing positions, having a well laid out storyline is critical for explaining the job you plan to employ (should the client agree with your plan, they also agree with your finances), or even in explaining when something goes wrong (the storyline here can allay a client’s concerns and retain trust in the professional’s abilities).

Nearly everyday we are in positions where we must explain our position clearly and articulately; the art of storytelling you build in debate is so useful that will help you no matter what career you ultimately choose- and it may even help get you out of chores today!