You Don’t Need to Judge to Make a Difference!

6 Creative Ways Our Community Gives Back


We often emphasize how important our debate judges are. After all, a tournament is just a scrimmage without them. But we’re grateful for all the ways people use their unique skills to give back to our debaters! To celebrate National Volunteer Month, we’re highlighting the ways that volunteers make a difference for our organization beyond debate judging. Thank you for sharing your talents to advance our mission!


Maren Lien photo

Maren Lien, Central High School Debate alum, has been working with us over the last 6 months to refresh our online merchandise storefront by creating both original designs and making student ideas come to life! Those will launch soon, so stay tuned to see what she’s been cooking!

Maren is currently a student at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, studying fine arts and animation. As an artist, she works in a variety of mediums, specifically focusing on the human form and exploring the intersection of perception and feeling. Maren has had work shown in multiple student showcases, and had a piece in the spring 2024 Foundation Studies: Homewood Exhibition at MCAD. Outside of the visual arts, she loves playing the flute and being in musical ensembles. Maren has been a policy debate coach at Washburn High School for the last year, and was a debater for 6 years before that with the MNUDL.

Maren shared that this was an enjoyable project to undertake, elaborating,

“I got to design what I personally would want to wear/rep, and I had to figure out a way to express that in legible and engaging designs. Hopefully others will be amused or pleased with what I ended up creating, but no matter what, I am satisfied with how things turned out. My favorite work is the design of Maggie Muskrat, the student-inspired mascot for MNUDL. She pushed my style in new ways as I had to find the sweet spot of cute and charming.”


Juniper Krueger

Even though debate is usually associated with the humanities, Juniper Kreuger is showing that debate skills are applicable in STEM as well. Hailing from Eagan, Juniper debated in both high school and college, graduating from Concordia College in Moorhead where they studied Computer Science. They now work in industrial controls and automation. Juniper said they have a lot they owe to debate and they were happy to contribute beyond coaching or judging.

Juniper Krueger used their skills to engineer creative solutions for our day-to-day work.

After each tournament, we write a personalized results report that is sent to each school’s coach and administrator. This is a great way to spotlight the students’ accomplishments and makes it easy for schools to celebrate their wins… but it’s a lot of work! Juniper created a computer program that quickly processes Tabroom results, making the process of highlighting each school’s speaker awards and team awards much faster and more efficient.

Juniper tells us:

“Working with the MNUDL was a great and rewarding opportunity to give back to my community. I was able to make a real impact while working on fun projects!”


Raymond Zhang

Minnesota debate alumni Raymond Zhang uses data science knowledge to help us process information on Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) outcomes. We measure our programming’s impact on students’ growth mindset, resilience, ability to accept feedback, goal-setting, and pro-social behavior using a survey designed for Urban Debate Leagues by Dr. Briana Mezuk, University of Michigan professor. Raymond helps us process hundreds of surveys and understand what the results mean. Raymond shared what motivated him to volunteer with us:

“I grew up with Minnesota Debate! Attending MDAW summer camp when I was still in high school, now 10+ years later it is rewarding to know that I found a place to utilize my data science skills to promote social-emotional learning for debaters in Minnesota! Peer-reviewed published research has shown time again that debate is one of the most powerful activities within the educational system, and the work that the MNUDL does is truly amazing!”

Kate Nozal (she/her) is one of our community coaches at Highland Park Senior High, but outside of coaching, she’s made time to help us strengthen our community partnerships over the summer. Kate debated on the Rosemount High School policy debate team before beginning her undergrad in Sociology at Macalester College. After taking some time off from debating to coach for us the last 3 years, Kate has joined the Mac debate team and attended her first college debate tournaments this semester. We appreciate all the hard work Kate puts in during the school year and are grateful she’s joining us this summer as well! Kate shared a bit more about what she’ll be doing over the next few months:

“This summer I will be partnering with the MNUDL to work on a variety of projects from volunteer outreach to data analysis.
I am a 2024 Chuck Green Fellow through Macalester College. The Chuck Green Fellowship is a 6-month civic engagement fellowship where fellows spend the spring analyzing issues in the Twin Cities, and then over the summer receive funding to partner with a community-based organization of their choice and complete a project.

I chose to partner with the MNUDL because of my great experience being a community coach. The MNUDL is responsible for providing resources and programming for debaters all across the Twin Cities, and I want to help make sure as many students can access this activity as possible!”


UST Data Visualization

Through the University of St. Thomas’ Center for the Common Good, we were matched with Dr. Amelia McNamara’s Data Visualization course. These students helped us bring our data to life, creating charts that are used for fundraising and educational purposes.


Archit and Alexis - speechwriting

We’re making our first foray into Speech! In our Financial Literacy Leadership Debates program, students will have the opportunity to explore a financial literacy related topic in the form of a memorized public address speech. Of course, students will have the chance to debate, but we hope this new form of engagement will give students another way to advocate for what’s most important to them. Archit Mishra from the University of Minnesota Speech Team and Alexis Peterson from Truman State University’s speech team wrote speech outlines and full scripts that our coaches and students will use to learn more about what the speech format looks like in action.

Are you inspired to share your own unique talents? Reach out to us at to share your ideas!