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Detroit’s great debaters take national stage

By F. Carlton Peeples
Special to the Michigan Citizen

Detroit’s young people have been counted out more times than one cares to imagine yet, they continue to beat the odds. Through it all they’ve continued to set their sights to attain and achieve unprecedented goals.  A group of six students, who have fought long and hard along with a collectively devoted and active group of teachers, administrators and community leaders, will display that resilience Detroiters are known for on a national stage.

The National Association for Urban Debate Leagues (NAUDL) brings together urban high school students from around the country. NAUDL supports urban debate leagues throughout the United States and hosts the Urban Debate League Nationals every April. The Detroit Urban Debate League (DUDL) has three teams competing at the 2013 NAUDL Urban Debate National Championship Tournament and Annual Dinner this week, April 18-21, in Washington, DC.

Students Rayvon Dean and Brooke Kimbrough (University Prep High School) and Plymouth Prep High School’s Darcell Brown and Victor Tooks, make up the two Policy Debate teams. The Public Debate Competitors, Tyre Williams and Tazkia Al-Bari represent Cass Technical High School and round out Detroit’s presence at nationals.

Tazkia Al-Bari was born in Bangladesh and came to America when she was 18 months.

“I joined the debate team because I loved politics and how it affected our country,” Tazkia told the Michigan Citizen. Hers is a very different perspective of what urban debate means.

“It’s a difficult subject for Bengali women because it isn’t a subject that is expected of us to study. So, I guess I’m kind of a rebel,” the 18-year old Cass Tech senior joked. Her plans are to attend the University of Toledo and major in bio engineering and later on to medical school.

It’s been a long road for these three high school teams. “Early in the season they were ranked in the bottom two yet, have surprised everyone by making it to the semifinals,” said DUDL Executive Director Holly Reiss.

Reiss, who has been with DUDL since its inception says the the opportunities presented to urban students boosts their self confidence and allows them to assume greater responsibility and accountability for their grades. UPHS team captain, Rayvon Dean is an example of a student who has begun to apply himself and benefit from DUDL. “It’s not that he couldn’t do the work,” said Reiss of the 16-year-old team captain. “He’s begun to really explore his full potential; he’s probably the brightest kid I’ve encountered. The [debate] team presents the challenge for him and so many other kids.”

“The DUDL allowed me to interact with people that the average 16-year-old can’t,” said Dean. “Moreover, it shows that students in urban areas are able to engage in educational events even though they go to urban schools.”

He’s also noticed that his team members’ confidence have improved as they joined the team and on to the end of the season.

 

 

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