Detroit Urban Debate Education, a campus organization created by a group of students on the University’s debate team, is in the running to win a $10,000 grant that group members say will help them change the lives of some students in Detroit’s troubled public high schools.
The money would come from an online competition hosted by ideablob.com.
Detroit Urban Debate Education is a non-profit student organization started to help create a stronger debate program in Detroit’s public high schools.
LSA senior Edmund Zagorin, a member of the Michigan Debate Team, helped to found the organization last year. He said he was inspired by a sociology class in which he and his classmates taught the art of debate to prisoners at a local jail.
“It got to the point where a lot of the prisoners were saying, ‘This class is great, but we wish we had it in high school before we committed crimes and were in jail,’ ” Zagorin said.
Zagorin’s experience with inmates prompted him to establish DUDE with other Debate Team members in order to support and expand existing debate programs in Detroit’s public high schools.
Group members applied for the organization because with the DUDE’s rapid and remarkable growth has been too fast and demanding for the club’s current budget, Zagorin said. He said winning the ideablob.com competition would be an “unbelievable break” for the organization.
Zagorin said DUDE would use the money from the contest, which ends Nov. 30, to help build the group’s infrastructure and provide scholarships for tournament registration, national travel and summer debate camps.
DUDE is also planning to host its own debate tournament in January, Zagorin said.
“Currently all of our schools that we work with in Detroit have free entry (to the tournament), but we are also working with an urban debate team in Grand Rapids and we’d like to make it free entry for them as well,” he said.
In order to win the competition, DUDE needs to win an online voting competition.
Parker said that though DUDE currently stands in second place, he thinks the group’s chances of winning the competition are good.
“We have a large student base at the University of Michigan,” he said. “I think a lot of these people are very sympathetic to Detroit. It’s a city we love and want to help out.”
DUDE works with students at both the University of Michigan and Wayne State University and has recently partnered up with the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues.
LSA sophomore Parker Cronin, who helped found the organization, said public high schools in Detroit invite DUDE to help build the schools’ existing debate initiatives by providing teaching assistance in classes and after-school programs. The club currently works with four to five schools in Detroit.
Cronin said teaching assistants emphasize public speaking skills, research skills and argument theory skills. DUDE also provides schools with judges and coaches for debate tournaments.
“I go once a week and we teach basic debate theory,” Cronin said. “So we teach students how to argue about certain positions, we teach research skills, public speaking and we talk about the various issues that come up in debate.”
Cronin said DUDE hopes to give underprivileged kids the opportunity to better their educational circumstances.
“There have been hundreds of success stories from people who are from the wrong side of the tracks and who have debated and turned their life around,” Cronin said.