The Somali Debate Award Ceremony of 2018

“This is like the Somali Oscars!” Clara Barton student, Fowsiya, said breathlessly at our Somali Debate Initiative Championship.

Our event may not be broadcast to millions, but the energy and excitement it generates is even greater for our students! At the championship, we present students with both competitive awards as well as character awards. Although we recognize competitive success at each tournament, we know that other forms of success must not be overlooked. The Somali Student of the Year awards recognizes students who demonstrate leadership, character, and growth over the debate season. Read on to learn more about our “Oscar-nominated” students, who embody the best of debate.

Read more to see why Coach Madar Mohamed from Anne Sullivan Communication Center says: “Debaters are the best students I know.”

2018 Somali Coach of the Year

Coach Burhan Ali delivers his acceptance speech.

Coach Burhan Ali delivers his acceptance speech.

Coach Burhan Ali of Northeast Middle School earned our Somali Coach of the Year Award for 2018! As a first-time coach, Burhan has done wonderful work growing the team and guiding them through their first debates. “This is our first year, and we’ve enjoyed it very much. Our students even said they can’t wait to come back next year,” says Burhan. “Parents call me at home asking when the next debate is, saying their kids are so eager for that they practice at home!” This is a great testament to his leadership! Burhan was indispensable for introducing the unfamiliar activity to parents. “Without that community partnership through Burhan, I don’t know if we’d have a team at all,” says co-coach Eli Zimmerman.

2018 Student of the Year Award

Mustaf Adan and Edna Abdullahi receive their awards, presented by Hodo Dahir.

Mustaf Adan and Edna Abdullahi receive their awards, presented by Hodo Dahir.

Edna Abdullahi – Andersen United Community School

She’s a refugee. At the time she started her ESL program, she didn’t speak English at all. Now, she’s very fluent and a good student,” says Coach Mohamed Ibrahim. Competing in debate is not easy, and Edna has embraced the challenge of learning in-depth information about education policy, articulating and advocating for both sides of an issue, and speaking in public in a second language. “I’ve been trying a lot,” says Edna. “I try so hard. I don’t win sometimes, but I try.” We are proud to recognize her tenacity with this award.

Mustaf Aden – Anne Sullivan Communication Center

Mustaf took the initiative to research charter schools on his own after practice, thoroughly checking the accuracy of each fact! He then shared research with his team. “Mustaf is a 6th grader, but his thinking level is more like high school level,” says Coach Mohamed. “He took on the role to get these extra materials ready, organize it, and prepare the other students.” We are so proud of Mustaf for digging deeper into his education and also leading his team to victory. Mustaf says: “Debate is challenging, but it’s worth it. If you’re in debate, you’ll have a chance to speak out, gain more confidence, and get help with your reading and writing.”

2018 Student of the Year Honorable Mentions

Kedra Abdi – Andersen United Community School

“Kedra is a refugee too,” says Coach Ibrahim. “She has a great academic record for every subject, and she continues to strive.” Kedra demonstrates great sportsmanship and keeps a positive attitude, regardless of the outcomes of every debate: “It’s not about whether you win or lose. It’s about how you grow,” she says.

Salma Adan – Northeast Middle School

“Salma, being a 6th grader, has come in and knocked this out of the park,” says Coach Eli Zimmerman. “She is super excited to be a part of this. She is more committed even than some of the older kids.” We were impressed by Salma’s positive attitude and good sportsmanship. Salma says: “The advice I get from debate is: When others win, do not be mad. Be grateful for what you’re doing. Thank the others for trying their best, too. They worked as hard as you.”

Also nominated from Northeast Middle School: Azhar Ahmod

Fowsiya Said & Muna Shidane – Clara Barton Community School

Muna Shidane and Fowsiya Said are both debate partners and close friends, and they both received honorable mention! “They are passionate, committed to growth, thoughtful about the world, and willing to stand up for anyone who is being discriminated against,” says Coach Flory Sommers of her students. “In debate, you learn more about world problems in depth. You can speak up about those problems here,” says Muna.

Ayan Hersi – Anne Sullivan Communication Center  

Coach Mohamed nominated Ayan for this award because of her dedication to the activity and holding herself to a high standard. “She wants to live up to her standards and make her parents proud,” says her coach. We’re proud of Ayan, and all of the other students who always do their best in this challenging, but rewarding activity!


Continue supporting the development of these great students by making a one-time gift or becoming a monthly donor by joining Advocates for Debate.