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Perspective: The 2020 Connection

Valuable Take-a-Ways for the Years Ahead

December 22, 2020 – Over the last few years, through initiatives like our Alumni Fellows and Alumni Ambassadors, NAUDL has explored ways to support debaters in the Urban Debate Network beyond their last day of high school. Subsequently, we have learned that recent graduates are eager to stay engaged and to capitalize on professional development, career-readiness and networking opportunities.

In 2020, we quickly realized that we needed to be there now for our soon-to-be-alumni, as recent reports indicate that college applications have decreased for underrepresented minorities this year. Navigating college applications is no easy feat alone, and with hundreds of urban debate alumni preparing to attend college each year, NAUDL knew we could play an important role in connecting debaters with college debate programs at a time when travel is limited and financial resources are at an all-time low.

Under the auspices and vision of Luke Hill, Director of Data and Performance Management, NAUDL devised a plan to ensure that students participating in urban debate would get the chance they deserved to explore college debate programs. Leveraging both personal and professional connections, NAUDL reached out to alumni, as well as close friends in the college debate community, appealing to their experience and perspectives. What started out as a passion project became NAUDL’s first-ever College Connector event on December 2nd.

With more than 100 registrants and 15 participating colleges and universities, the program began with thought-provoking alumni panels. Esteemed network alums, who are now well into adulthood and careers, openly shared their college experiences and key decisions they made along the way. This conversation highlighted successes and lessons learned, while setting the tone for the one-on-one conversations students would have with college debate representatives later in the day. It was powerful to see speakers with similar backgrounds and high school experiences field questions from current students about successfully navigating tough choices, competitive programs and career paths. The wisdom provided by our panel gave the next generation of college students valuable take-a-ways for many years ahead.

In sharing my congratulations on the College Connector, I also want to express my overwhelming appreciation to the staff and colleagues, college representatives, urban debate alumni, league partners, donors and others who showed up –- in a big way –-  in their willingness to step-in this year and fill a gap at a critical time for urban debate and the students we serve.

I invite you to follow along and learn more about the College Connector and our alumni programs in 2021 — and, as always, to let us know if you have resources or ideas that might help advance these projects. I also invite you to consider making a year-end gift to NAUDL, supporting all of our unique programs, curricula and events.

You have my utmost gratitude.

Rhonda Haynes
Executive Director

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