Students Excel at Second Annual Citywide Middle School Championship

Last season, the Chicago Debate League (CDL) joined the growing national movement toward extending urban debate programming into public middle schools. Urban areas such as Atlanta, Baltimore, the District of Columbia, Kansas City, Miami and New York have found a high level of enthusiasm, participation and retention among middle school participants. Beginning last year, Chicago committed itself to extending its national standard-setting qualities and numerical metrics to the CPS 5th-8th graders and the results so far have been impressive.

Through a partnership with the Office of Extended Learning Opportunities, the Office of High School and High School Programs, the CDL and After-School All-Stars, nine elementary schools with more than 130 students in the 5th-8th grades, have participated in the second year of middle school debate in Chicago. This year’s schools included the following: Alcott, Burke, Frazier IB, Kellogg, Lincoln, McCutcheon, Morgan Park, Owen Scholastic and Smyser.

The successful regular season concluded with The Chicago Middle School city championship on March 7 at the Gwendolyn Brooks College Prep High School. The Awards Ceremony on Saturday afternoon was hosted by urban radio personality Sean David of Power 92 in Chicago. He added great deal of humor and energy to the already exuberant proceedings, commenting from the podium, “You all are about the inspiring young orators I’ve ever seen. I need each of you to come on my show and get behind my mic and show your skills.” Breakfast and Registration began at 7:30 a.m., the Judge Workshop took place at 8:30 a.m. and three rounds of competition culminated in a mid-afternoon Awards Ceremony.

The Varsity Champions were Jackie Puschmann and Naomi Lazar from Lincoln Elementary who were the only undefeated team in the Varsity division. Lincoln is coached by Cindi Gerber and Gregory Thompson, and their support coach is Laura Houston from Lincoln Park High School. Mark Armendariz is the Principal at Lincoln.

The Junior Varsity Champions were Brittany Nevils and Jamila Nelson from Morgan Park High School. Morgan Park is coached by Brian Patrick, and their support coach is Bill Colson from Morgan Park. Dr. Beryl Shingles is the Principal at Morgan Park.

The Novice Champions were Rachel Carey and Lauren Ellbogen, also from Lincoln Elementary.
Awards were given to the individual Top Speaker in each division. The winners were Adriana Fuentes from Smyser Elementary School (Varsity), Leah Steans-Gail from Lincoln Elementary (Junior Varsity), and Elizabeth Walsh from Alcott Elementary (Novice).

Former CDL debater, Mandela Okere, who serves as a Support Coach for the Alcott Elementary school, noted how excited the participants were. “The Championship tournament was an excellent experience for both the students and parents. I was impressed to see the interest and involvement from parents. There was a high energy, from students spectators and tournament officials. It’s encouraging to see this level of interest and excitement about creative academic competition.”

Dr. Barbara Eason-Watkins, Chief Education Officer of Chicago Public Schools, declared her support for the event. “The students from these schools represent the diversity of Chicago and our school district, and I congratulate all of them. The Chicago Public Schools work very hard toward giving students new opportunities to grow academically, and through our partnership with the Chicago Debate League we continue that tradition. You are among our best and brightest, and we wish you good luck as you showcase your talent during the competition,” she said.