Brooklyn Debate Team Headed To National Championship

Brooklyn Debate Team Headed To National Championship

CBS News, A middle school debate team in Brooklyn is headed to the national championship in Texas, CBS2's Cindy Hsu reports.

As CBS2’s Cindy Hsu reports, the students earned a spot in the national championship, but they need some helping getting there.

The debate team at MS-50 in Williamsburg has won the Middle School City Championships for the last three years.

“It felt exhilarating, because we just went up on state and I was like, ‘wait, is this for real?’” student Hannah Tavares told Hsu.

What makes their achievements even more impressive is that three years ago the school was in danger of shutting down because of low enrollment, with only 165 students. Now, that number has doubled to more than 300 students.

Their math and ELA test scores have more than tripled, too, since Principal Ben Honoroff started at the school in 2015. He made debate class part of the curriculum for every student.

“We see students using this academic language, augmentation skills in all of their classes. So we’re seeing our students becoming academically stronger,” he said.

Sixth grader Grant Shan told Hsu debate has really boosted his confidence.

“Before, I could probably not speak to you right now, because I’d be very nervous and it would be very hard for me. But debate has really shown me that… you can talk with confidence, you can understand things and speak with purpose,” he said.

The school also has the first Spanish language debate team in the city.

Eighth grader Victoria Paredes, who moved from Argentina two years ago, said debate helped her learn English.

“I didn’t know English when I came here, I was only (a) Spanish speaker. But now, as you can see, I speak English,” she said. “Debate has helped me expand what I do say.”

The students are fundraising in school and online to raise $30,000 for their trip to nationals in Dallas.

“It’s going to cost a lot of money for plane and housing to send them to Dallas, Texas, and we want to take Dallas, Texas by storm,” said Honoroff.

The students say they want to show the nation what New Yorkers can do.

Their debate team started five years ago with just four students. Now, they have more than 60 members and they love winning.

About The New York City Urban Debate League

Our mission is that every school should have a debate team and every student should have the opportunity to the best debate education opportunities. One of the most critical problems in education today is the academic and civic achievement gaps. Our solution is to provide the best college, career, civic, communication and community opportunities through year round academic debate. Each month we work with thousands of students and hundreds of schools. We support debate practices every day, debate centers every week, tournaments every weekend, workshops every month, debate camps all summer, and year round support for any student and teacher. We are one of the the city’s most award winning curricular and extracurricular programs. We have received awards from the White House, National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, Presidential Commission on the Arts and Humanities, National Institute for Museum and Library Services, The Social Index of Top 100 Nonprofits, BoardSource, Points of Light’s Civic Accelerator, Teach for America, and by the First Lady as “one of the top arts and humanities based programs in the country.” Why Debate? Debate teaches every academic skill and every academic subject. A Great Debater means a person who has the skills and confidence to lead, to speak up, to argue, to question, to read and write to right the wrongs, to know about the world around you, and to change the world around you.

The New York City Urban Debate League
25 Broadway, 12th Floor