In this year’s Mayors Challenge, Minneapolis and St. Paul debaters will join forces to debate immigration reform. Mayor Jacob Frey of Minneapolis and Mayor Melvin Carter of St. Paul, along with representatives from our sponsors, will choose the winning team in front of an audience of education supporters.

Last year’s Mayors Challenge, hosted by KARE-11’s Jana Shortal, was an electric exchange about funding career and technical education. On the affirmative side, advocating for expanding career technical education funding, were Lily Endo of Washburn High School and Mason Eischens of Highland Park Senior High School. Areonna Dean of Central High School and B Phi of South High School negated the resolution, arguing against Lily & Mason.

Photo of Jana Shortal, Melvin Carter, and Jacob Frey with MNUDL Debaters.

The judges were impressed by our Mason, Areonna, B, and Lily’s great performance: 

St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter: “I was glad that I don’t have to participate in tough debates like these, because that was intense. That was really incredible. The level of research that you all clearly do, the ability to take fact and logic and research and apply it back and forth – developing that is so necessary.”

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey: “You have mastered as skill that has largely been lost in American society, which is to debate respectfully.”

Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius: “I can’t think of a more worthy opportunity for students to be able to learn, craft a point, have good arguments on both sides, listen effectively, or come to some solution. I think it’s incredible students can do that in school.”

John Marshall, Xcel Energy: “Kudos to all four students. We’re all going to leave this morning profoundly impacted by the research and passion you put into these debates.”

At the event, we also presented our first-ever Champions of Change Award to Senator Ilhan Omar and The Women’s Foundation of Minnesota. The award is designed to recognize individuals and organizations who are catalysts for change in our community.

Ilhan Omar serves as a role model to many of us through her fearless and authentic leadership and particularly for her amplification of youth voice and support of strong education systems. We also recognized The Women’s Foundation for their advancement of systems change in our community and investment in young people.

Senator Ilhan Omar accepted her award with a reflection on what debate means: “Debate is such an important and overlooked skill. It’s proven to raise young people’s confidence and self esteem. It’s certainly done that for me. Debate has influenced many of history’s greatest orators and leaders, and I’m excited to see the students in our program become today’s and tomorrow’s leaders. Because of my love for this program, it’s truly an honor and humbling experience to accept this award. The Minnesota Urban Debate League has been instrumental in my life and now in my daughter’s life.”

Attending the Mayor’s Challenge is an opportunity to greet the mayors, network with corporate and organizational leaders who advocate for education, and meet our amazing students. We hope to see you there!

Be part of the 2019 Mayors Challenge! Contact Amy Cram Helwich at to learn more about how you can be part of this year’s event through our sponsorship opportunities.

Register to reserve a table or your own ticket here: