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Middle school debate team achieves high marks

The St. Louis Park Middle School started a debate team through the Minnesota Urban Debate League this year. In the first year, the 26 member team has achieved high success at tournaments and plans to continue and expand debate at the middle school for future years.

At one of their recent tournaments the team and members received the following placements:

  • Best speaker: Terressa Garcia
  • Best speaker: Kafiya Ali, 1st Place 
  • Best Team: Ayan Ali and Salma Abdullahi, 6th place; Kafiya Ali and Terressa Garcia, 3rd place

The Minnesota Urban Debate League (MNUDL) is a program of Augsburg University which provides resources and programming to support competitive academic debate in Twin Cities high schools and middle schools. Students are engaged in deep topics that teach them presentation and leadership skills. There are also opportunities for students to receive scholarships to attend Augsburg University. 

Teressa Garcia with best speaker award

One 6th grade student, Terressa Garcia, joined the debate team after one of her friends suggested she get involved. After talking it over with her mom, she was excited to be a part of the team, but she never thought she would become a Best Speaker recipient. 

“I like being able to talk and argue in general because I like expressing my feelings. Sometimes I get nervous and I shut down, but it has helped me to express my emotions in a way that helps others,” shared Terressa. 

As part of the debate team, Terressa gets to learn about a variety of topics. This year the theme for the Urban Debate League is education reform. Some of the topics she has learned more about have been whether the government should fund Individual Development Accounts (IDA) and about the school to prison pipeline. 

Coach and 8th grade Dean Mariama Kpaka was also not expecting to be involved with the debate team this year. She was prompted to coach because of her background in communication and the Model UN. She has found the experience to be humbling and rewarding. 

two students at debate tournament

“Coaching debate has been surprisingly fulfilling. We started with six students, and I made a couple of announcements. Then we had 13, and before I knew it, we had 26,” she explained. 

It is exciting for students to have an opportunity to travel to different schools and compete with their peers. Several students have expressed great interest in the scholarship program with Augsburg. 

“It has been fun, and I’m planning to do it again next year,” said Mariama. 

This year Community Education was able to fully fund the program. While programs are usually fee-based, there are hopes and possible plans to expand to the high school for next year. The middle school has already started a Spanish debate team through the Urban Debate League.