“Debate’s a powerful activity that teaches you how to be a better person, not just a better debater. It’s not really separate from your life – it’s just a part of who you are.”

– B., former debater at South High School

In their own words

Debate makes a difference in students’ lives. We also know that debate works because students tell us how.

Mary Ghebremeskal

Mary Ghebremeskal

Mary competed in the East African Debate League in middle school and joined the Financial Literacy Leadership Debate Team during high school. She served as the 2021 MPS Student Representative and has taken on various leadership positions in Minneapolis. Mary will head to Yale University in the fall. Mary says…

“Doing debate gave me a lot of skills, like working with a team and working with others, that I don’t really think I had until then. Debate is something where you argue your points. I feel like it’s forcing you to be a leader in some way. I eventually became interested in the humanities, especially when it came to activism and politics.”

Charlie Schmit

Charlie Schmit is a current national topic policy debater at Washburn High School and member of the Minneapolis Youth Council. Charlie says…

“I joined the MYC as a place to help better my community around me. Some areas I want to improve would be public education, specifically in the Minneapolis public school system, and working towards a better, cleaner environment. But really, all I want to do is help improve the lives of everyone around me. (Also, I will always be a debater!)”

Charlie Schmit
Melissa Flores

Melissa Flores

Melissa Flores has been a member of the Spanish Debate League for 6 years, at Anwatin Middle School and South High School. She now serves as the Vice President of Minneapolis South High School’s senior class. Melissa shares how bilingualism powers her leadership…

“In my four years of high school, I haven’t seen a Hispanic person in the senior office- someone speaking Spanish that can communicate with people who don’t know English. I saw a lot of my friends struggle to understand what they were talking about at the senior meeting. They wanted to have a good senior year. High school is sometimes hard because you don’t know who to communicate with, who you can trust or you can talk to about things. I came here to the United States without knowing English, so I know how it feels to not have a person you can talk to in your own language. I want them to feel heard. They began bringing me so many ideas. I was glad to see them all happy, because they were able to talk to me.”

Cayden Mayer

Cayden Mayer debates for Central High School. They are involved in the community as a student coach, qualifier to State, Sections, and Nationals, and participant in policy debate and Financial Literacy Leadership Debates. Cayden says:

“I get a lot of education from debate. I learn about how the government functions, the different actors at play, as well as the economy and how every single thing is intertwined. Also, how to write and speak in front of people has become easier. I’ve learned how to formulate my thoughts on the fly. My ability to write a paper quickly has drastically improved, the more that I did debate. Plus, it’s just fun!”

Cayden Mayer
Michael O'Neal

Michael O’Neal

Michael O’Neal is a varsity policy debater at Roseville Area HS, who leads in multiple out-of-school-time activities. Michael tells us:

“I’ve done a lot of activities. I’ve got 6 years of football under my belt and 3 years of basketball. In physical activities and debate, you grow in your skill and make friendships and connections. What debate uniquely offers is not only do you grow in your skill and your sport, you grow as a person. I never challenged my way of thinking on the football field. Debate is something for growing your mindset. When you want to learn more about the world and other people’s perspectives. If you want to better your mindset, better your work ethic, know yourself more – debate’s the place for you.”


Jordan worked hard to grow as a speaker in our Middle School National Topic Debate program, becoming part of the Tournament Champion team! Jordan says:

“Debate is a way for you to extend your knowledge about the whole world. It’s a way to find out what’s happening out there while you’re not really focused on it, just living your life… it’s super challenging and it takes a lot of skill. But if you work hard enough, you can do it. There isn’t a prize for just coming. Some things are given to you, but other things, you have to work for. Debate takes a lot of skills and smarts.”

“The teaching force and the students don’t match each other. The teaching in the classroom isn’t always equitable. I’m being the change. I’m trying to be that person, for a kid, that I never had.”
- Anab Muqtar, Edison High School, ‘20
“I remember the incredible amount of research we did at camp: picking apart articles, building your research and kritiks. That kind of in depth research is very similar to what I do to write research or a grant application. I need to refine the research down to exactly what I need. There are still times when I think about writing as a kritik or framework argument, even when writing something scientific.”
- Zachary Ware-Joncas, Central High School, ‘13

“Debate made it clear that policy was more impactful in people’s lives than I previously believed. My enhanced understanding of the importance of policy outcomes was an impactful step in my development into policy stakeholder I am today.”

- Tyler Moroles, Minneapolis South High School, ‘09

Alumni stories

Check out the MNUDL blog for stories of how debate impacted the lives of these alums.

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