The Miami-Dade Urban Debate League (“MDUDL”) is helping our inner-city kids have a voice through the “sport” of competitive debate. The League, now starting its fourth year, is one of 22 Urban Debate Leagues across the country operating under the umbrella of the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues headquartered in Chicago. While many schools across Miami-Dade County have debate teams, our urban core doesn’t have the ability to provide this extracurricular activity due to budget constraints.
Chairman of the Board of MDUDL is Cliff Schulman of the law firm of Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman and past Chairman of the Aventura Marketing Council/Chamber of Commerce. Other Board members represent FP&L, NextEra Energy, Carnival Corporation, their partner colleges and the law firms of Holland & Knight, Greenberg Traurig, Sterns Weaver, White & Case and Boies Schiller.
The League serves Tier 1 schools chosen by the School Board (75%+ have students at or below poverty level) and this past year serviced 17 middle and high schools from North Miami Beach all the way down to Florida City. Last year the League conducted eight tournaments on the campuses of the League’s academic partners: Florida International University, Miami-Dade College and the University of Miami.
The national statistics are truly amazing: 90% of urban debaters graduate high school on time; 72% “high- risk” debaters will graduate; each semester that a student debates, their grades improve; after graduating from high school, 86% of urban debaters will enroll in college and 80% of those will graduate college.
Each school receives training and resources through MDUDL Program Director, Cydney Edwards. Having the students experience a tournament on a college campus is very important for them to realize college is within reach.
The photos on the pages inside provide a great example of drive and determination. Winning a trophy is a first for many of them. The pride they feel is palpable. Priceless. Ultimately, debate will help each student lead productive, meaningful careers and hopefully give back to the community that supported them.
Over the past three years the League has been in existence, it has touched over 800 youngsters in the fourth- largest school system in the country. While the School Board has provided some financial support, their financial needs are great in order to continue and expand.
To date, the Miami League has received financial support from the corporations and law firms noted, as well as grants from Citi Foundation, the Knight Foundation, the Miami Foundation, the Peacock Foundation, Weiss Serota Helfman Cole & Bierman, the Wells Fargo Foundation, their wonderful Board Members and numerous individuals who care about this program. They continue to seek out partners who are willing to support their efforts and most importantly, to help these amazing young people whom they believe will be the leaders of tomorrow.