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4 LAUSD students in Urban Debate National Championship

Craig Clough | April 8, 2015

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LAMDL Executive Director Cameron Ward (Credit: LAUSD Facebook)

LAMDL Executive Director Cameron Ward (Credit: LAUSD Facebook)

Four LA Unified students have qualified to compete this weekend at the 8th Annual Urban Debate National Championship Tournament at USC.

The students will represent the Los Angeles Metropolitan Debate League (LAMDL) in the tournament, which is expected to have more than 150 competitors and coaches in attendance, according to LA Unified.

The four students competing in the national tournament are Diana Alvarez and Khristyan Trejo from Alliance Marc and Eva Stern Math and Science School, and Cedric Bonsol and Eric Johnston from Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School.

LADML, a non-profit that is partnered with the district, is one of 19 leagues associated with the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues, which is hosting the tournament.

LADML is “funded mainly from donations” and “operates on a shoestring budget,” according to LA Unified’s Facebook page. The District contributes $25,000 to the program, which saw more than 400 students from 19 high schools participate this year.

The district notes that over the last four years, every student who participated in the LADML program has graduated on time and attended college, and the LADML points to a University of Missouri study that found that after one year in an urban debate league, participants improved their school attendance, GPAs and literacy scores.

“Each year debaters spend hundreds of hours doing self-directed research on important policy issues. Advanced debaters will conduct a similar amount of research as graduate students working on their thesis project,” said Cameron Ward, the program’s director, in a statement.

Debate clubs had been commonplace in high schools across America for decades before falling out of vogue in the 1980s, according to a Los Angeles Times story that profiled the LADML in 2009. Efforts have been underway in recent years to revive the practice in high schools across the country.

“For many of our students, English is a second language, and many of them are poor . . . and debate has nothing to do with that,” LA Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines told the Times. “They learn, in the end, that they can succeed with their words even when society tells them they can’t.”

Click here to learn more about LADML, or check out the below YouTube video.

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