• Social Innovation Fellowship

Award Year 

A New Curriculum for the Rhode Island Urban Debate League (RIUDL)

The Rhode Island Urban Debate League has facilitated debate teams and competitions for local high school students for over a decade.  We depend on a strong partnership between college student volunteers and teacher-coaches in the schools, many of whom have no formal debate training.  While we receive some curricular support from the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues, it became apparent during our time working with the league that we better resources for our instructors were essential if the League was to achieve its mission of increasing academic gains for our participants while simultaneously attracting more students to the activity.  Over the past summer, Sophie Elsner and I wrote the "Teachers' Guide to Policy Debate," highlighting critical debate concepts, suggesting activities for keeping students engaged in the material throughout the year, and identifying practices that have proven to increase involvement in debate.  Initial feedback from the project has  been very positive, with teachers and volunteers alike indicating an increased comfort teaching debate materials and students demonstrating high-level debate skills early on in their debate careers. 


Personal Statement

Working with the Rhode Island Urban Debate League has proven to be the single most educational and rewarding activity I have had the opportunity to experience in college.  I have had the pleasure of working with local students and teachers, allowing me to contextualize my classroom work with the real-world challenges that will shape my future community engagement.  Seeing the potential for debate to change the trajectory of students' lives (in part through years of personal engagement with the activity), I felt a responsibility to make debate as accessible as possible for Rhode Island's deserving urban population.  While passing countless hours thinking about debate practices and strategy during the last summer was taxing at times, the tangible excitement for debate among our students and coaches at the start of this school year makes it clear that my time was well-spent.  I look forward to see this set of curricular supports fully implemented and hope that Sophie and I have left a strong mark on the League, ensuring sustainability long after we have graduated.