On Friday, two of Brooklyn's finest young debaters were honored at Boys and Girls High School by State Assemblywoman Annette Robinson for helping their team bring home the World Cup win!
For the past year, four schools who take part in the Solomon Debate League—Boys and Girls High School and Brooklyn Collegiate High School, from Brooklyn; and Christ the King High School and Cicely Tyson High School out of New Jersey—led by their coaches and the league's founder, Michael White, have been going toe-to-toe in a series of debate challenges.
"It was a lot of work; the process of researching is painstaking for the students often time," said BGHS's Debate Coach Thomas Paisley, who has been working with this team since 2011. "They may not understand in the beginning why they have to learn the 45 pages of the U.N. charter or some of the real causes of poverty. But when they have to go against the other team, when they start to see that their argument is prevailing is when they see the lessons come together... That's the true beauty of it. They learn that if they can build an argument, they can build anything. There are no limits."
Of the four schools, Boys and Girls High School prevailed as the champs in the September 2014 play-offs. But it wasn't over! All of the young debaters had sharpened their oral argument skills so finely, from there, they prepared to take on their next challenge: compete internationally for the World Leader Cup trophy.
Team USA was comprised of the top-three debaters from each of the four schools, a total of 12 students, all of whom would travel overseas in December 2014 to square off with the top debate team in South Africa.
However, the sudden Ebola scare at the time ultimately prevented their travel. But they were not disarmed. Both countries arranged for the students to debate via a web cam, while judges from both countries listened and weighed in on who's argument proved strongest.
Team USA won! On Friday, two of the three debaters, 16-year-old Jazmaine Vitta and 18-year-old Shavanes Robinson from BGHS, were joined by Assemblywoman Robinson; along with the school's principal Michael Wiltshire; their coach, Thomas Paisley; Michael White and a few of the league's board members to congratulate the young orators on their huge success.
Vitta, a junior, said her favorite part of the experience was meeting other high-schoolers from a different part of the world and hearing their accents: "They were great competition, but they were very nice," she said.
Shavanes Robinson, 17, a junior, said the South African team seemed to be strongest in their debating technique, while Team USA was more researched. "I'm very passionate about debating," said Robinson: "So for me, this was a great experience and I always wanted to represent my country. Finally, I had the chance and we were victorious, so I'm really elated."
Founder Mike White said the win represented a culmination of the many teachers who put time and faith in helping to prepare the students: "It's a win for urban schools in Brooklyn who will now be able to interface with kids all around the world in an academic exercise," said White. "It's the first time that kids in an urban setting debated across two continents. And that's black history."
White said future debates are being planned now with students from Canada, Britain, Jamaica and Israel.