During the 2017-18 school year, the Denver Urban Debate League (DUDL) will celebrate its Tenth Anniversary. Since the DUDL was launched in 2008, the organization has grown from serving one school district to four districts across the metro area; expanded programs to include competitive speech activities in addition to the core debate programs; and, served more than 2000 students. Some of these students, like Rachel Owusu and Zakira Seidu-Aroza who were raised in Ghana, joined the debate team to improve their English language skills and increase their confidence. Other students, like DUDL graduate Selene Figueroa, joined the debate team because they have ambitions to be the first generation in their family to attend college. Selene received a debate scholarship to attend college, and is now enrolled in a program at the University of Denver where she will complete her undergraduate degree and JD in five years. For DUDL graduate Viviana Andazola being on the debate team at her Mapleton high school was an important step on her path to Yale, where she will be a senior this fall. Viviana recently traveled home to Denver to share the stage with Michelle Obama at TogetHER with the Women's Foundation of Colorado. DUDL programs are deeply aligned with our community's most important education priorities. DUDL programs are based on a nationally successful model proven to boost student achievement, engagement and graduation rates in Title 1 schools. By using competitive speech and debate as a framework to engage students who might be struggling in a traditional classroom setting, DUDL's students develop valuable 21st century learning skills such as critical thinking, collaboration, problem solving, and creativity, while cultivating social and emotional intelligence. Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says, "Competitive debate is one of the great equalizers of educational opportunity. To be very clear, the experience of competing on an urban debate team boosts your college readiness and our chance to succeed in life." With with more financial support DUDL has the capacity to have a broader impact in our community. There are many more schools that could benefit from having a speech and debate team and more young lives waiting to be transformed.
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