• Social Innovation Fellowship

Award Year 

Rewriting the Curriculum of the Rhode Island Urban Debate League (RIUDL)

The mission of the Rhode Island Urban Debate League (RIUDL) is to increase academic engagement and civic involvement among local high school students through participation in competitive and challenging debate activities.  RIUDL student and staff leadership, professional coaches and statewide community partners collaborated to define the League’s mission, goals and opportunities for expansion, both within existing sites and beyond the current schools we serve.  RIUDL leaders assessed how to best build research and communication skills through debate.  As a consequence of these discussions, two members of the student staff engaged in the writing of a yearlong curriculum with feedback and guidance form high school students, coaches, teachers and national debate league directors.  This curriculum focuses on crafting arguments, honing individual research capabilities, and sharpening presentation skills—all necessary qualities for post-secondary education and beyond.  Using the new teaching tools as a model, RIUDL volunteers ran a week long summer camp for Providence debaters to begin the academic season.  This strengthening of the educational resources for the RIUDL has enabled new teachers to support the activity of debate, thereby empowering high school students to research, advocate and act on national policy issues.  www.riudl.org

Personal Statement

When I arrived at Brown in the fall of 2008, a RIUDL leader for the first time, my ambitions for the league seemed loftier than we could accomplish with our current model. The RIUDL is an organization in adolescence, awkward at times, sometimes moving without much thoughtful direction, but with great potential. We take on large goals: increasing reading comprehension, incorporating current events into the curriculum, and confronting fears of public speaking.  We hold community-wide forums, teach students about environmental policy, and take dozens of teenagers to New York for the first time in their lives.  We work with students, teachers, principals and non-profit organizations, constantly trying to bring the benefits of debate to as many students as possible. The RIUDL is growing up now, and I am honored to be a part of it.
The combination of my belief in debate and my belief in these students, no matter their educational background or the trials they face, propels my work for the RIUDL. Debate taught me how to think holistically, respectfully and complexly; I want to make the tool of debate available and enjoyable for all students. This cannot be achieved without focused research and redesign, collaboration with those in the field, and close connections with the Providence public school community.