urban debate

2020 Dinner Awards & Finalists

Congratulations to these Champions of Debate

Jamelle Brown, 2020 Coach of the Year
League: Debate! Kansas City
School: Sumner Academy of Arts & Science

Congratulations to the 2020 NAUDL Coach of the Year Jamelle Brown. The annual Coach of the Year Award recognizes an educator who has dedicated his or her career to ensuring all students have access to debate. Ms. Brown is an institution at Debate! Kansas City, where her level of commitment over nearly two decades is unparalleled. She is also a faculty member at Sumner Academy of Arts & Science.

“Mrs. Brown is a shining example of service and leadership in our league. Our league has always prioritized making debate a haven for students, and expanding access to the activity for all students in the urban core. Mrs. Brown takes that core mission to heart, giving time away from her children and husband to travel with students to debate tournaments on weekends and out of town. This further extends to her mentorship of other teachers in the league where she ensures the mission is met, assists in coaching of various teams, and helps with acquisition of resources for debate coaches in her district. Mrs. Brown and the Sumner squad have continuously brought forward new and engaging arguments to further the advancement of the league. Additionally, Mrs. Brown has always shared her unique evidence and argument ideas to the rest of the coaches in the league, further showing her commitment to the idea of collective elevation.”

"That knowledge I was gathering was POWER -- and I knew that, if wielded correctly, I could make some serious changes."

Olivia Northcutt-Wyly, 2020 Debater of the Year
Dallas Urban Debate Alliance
School: School of Science and Engineering Magnet School
Career Aspiration: Bioethics and Epidemiology

Olivia Northcutt-Wyly is a 2x National Qualifier and seasoned debate champion. However, Olivia’s passions extend beyond debate — namely as the founder of Chronically Gifted, an organization that provides tutoring services for chronically ill children.

A longtime coach Mary Gregg says that Olivia’s mature vision is vital to the operations of the Dallas league. Mary also shares that Olivia is a most resilient person. Indeed, debate has taught Olivia research and public speaking skills that have allowed for the creation of real-time change, both personally and for the community. It has also given Olivia an independence that once felt less possible. Congratulations!

See Olivia’s acceptance speech: 

Dewayne C. Martin, 2020 Runner-UP
School: American Senior High School
College/Career Interests: Public Policy and Economics

“It has been my self-tasked responsibility to utilize debate as a platform to spark change in our community and hope for generations to come.”

Meet Dewayne Martin, Miami-Dade debater, past UDNC Top Speaker, President of the National English Honor Society, and youth political leader. Dewayne founded his first debate team in the 7th grade. He followed that by founding a policy debate team in high school. For Dewayne, debate, along with literature, is a refuge and has served not only as a medium to mentor his peers, but has provided access to scholarship and internship opportunities. Through these opportunities, it seems Dewayne “impresses everyone he meets,” says his nominator,” and, she says, “he has a character that cannot be duplicated.”

Allen Avrakh

League: New York City
School: Leon M. Goldstein High School
College/Career Interests: Finance, Criminal Justice, Corporate Law

“Through debate, I have learned how to lead a team, how to teach people and how to make myself known.”

A shy student with an interest in politics, Allen Avrakh joined his high school debate team in hopes of “finding people like me.” It worked. Allen says his debate coach taught him how to embrace being himself, his partner become his best friend and his teammates taught him how to be a true leader. Additionally, the competition of debate tournaments gave him the grit to succeed and his newfound sense of self and resilience translated into other areas of his life. It helped him to thrive as a champion swimmer and to get elected to student government.  Allen says that through debate, he has learned that he can overcome anything — and that if he puts his mind and hard work behind achieving them, he’ll reach the outcomes that he desires in life.

Diego Flores

League: Los Angeles  (LAMDL)
School: Bravo Medical Magnet High School
College/Career Interests: Political Science, Urban Debate League Coordinator/Executive Director, Debate Coach, Teacher/Professor

“Debate holds me down and keeps me grounded in ways that no other activity does.”

Diego Flores praises his coaches and mentors at LAMDL for the guidance and unconditional support he has received over his time in debate. He says that it has inspired him in his approach to teamwork, mentorship and in his service to others. Moreover, this encouragement has instilled a sense of perseverance and an understanding that cultivating a full idea is the best way to communicate one’s believes.  “The community I can call home are the people at LAMDL,” says Diego. The feeling is mutual — his nominator applauds Diego’s integrity and passion, as well as his motivation to learn, improve and produce high quality work.

Sofia Funk

League: Silicon Valley (SVUDL)
School: Cristo Rey San Jose Jesuit High School
College/Career Interests: Environmental Science, Urban Studies, Urban Studies, Education

“Through debate, I learned to navigate structures that were not created for me.”

As a scholar, a volunteer and an artist, Sofia Funk says that debate is the most powerful activity in which she has had the fortune to participate. It is debate that has given her the tools to speak her mind and to push the envelope in important conversations around the issues that matter to her most — namely the economic and educational inequities right in her backyard. Sofia says her keen sense of “the bigger picture” is an advantage in the classroom, in the debate space, and beyond. It is also an asset that has contributed to her sense of self-possession and assertiveness when standing up for her beliefs and for the needs of her community.

Hasna Iqbal

League: Boston
School: Boston Latin Academy
College/Career Interests: Medicine, Healthcare

“Knowing you have value is important, but believing it is what makes it true.”

Hasna Iqbal is a National Honor Society member and student leader and ambassador, chairing many school and extracurricular activities. A well-rounded student, it doesn’t come as a surprise that, when it comes to her relationship to debate, Hasna doesn’t value it for its competition. She values its elements of scholarship, leadership, confidence-building and mentorship. Debate has changed the way Hasna thinks about her future and she is committed to spreading awareness on the power of the activity. More, she is committed to ensuring the sustainability of her team, so that debate remains accessible in the long-term for many students to come.

Kiara Roumayah

League: Detroit
School: University High School Academy
College/Career Interests: PPE- Philosophy, Politics and Economics

“Debate helped me find my voice and I’ll never be silent as long as I have the opportunity and the choice to speak what I see.”

Proud of her “Motor City” roots of toughness and grit, Kiara Roumayah is a debater, a coach, a Spanish tutor, and a varsity athlete. Debate has cultivated Kiara’s passion for learning and opened her mind to a breadth of information and perspectives. It has also been a safe haven that has cultivated a broad intellectual curiosity. Power lies in action for Kiara and she will take this philosophy with her as she seeks to promote social justice and equity in her community. She’ll succeed, no doubt, says Kiara’s nominator, who believes that Kiara will be a leader in any capacity she chooses for herself.

Nikola (Nik) Stamenkovic-Diez

League: Chicago Debates
School: John F. Kennedy High School
College/Career Interests: Civil Rights Law, Non-Profit Founder

“Debate has inspired me to stimulate practical change in my community.”

Debate has inspired Nik Stamenkovic-Diez to become an inquirer, leading to a constant pursuit of knowledge around ideas left untouched in the classroom. Knowledge that not only impacts his approach and delivery in debate, but also in his role as an active leader in school community. Debate has also inspired and given Nik the space to explore his identity and to challenge societal norms. Nik says that debate has fostered a confidence in himself to grow increasingly comfortable with who he is and who he sees himself becoming — someone who has the tools to be a social advocate for structurally disadvantaged communities.

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