BALTIMORE, Md. – Students at Hilton Elementary School in West Baltimore are preparing for a city debate championship tournament. It’s part of the Baltimore Urban Debate League.
Elementary students learning to become critical thinkers, advocates of their community and engaged learners.
“I think debate helps in all areas. We don’t pick students based on academics. We pick them if they are interested and they are dedicated and it spills over into academics because most of our students if they were struggling at the beginning of the year, they are not struggling now,” said Susan Stork, a Hilton Elementary School Teacher.
Students tackle topics like Off Shore Drilling and Baltimore City Attendance. Taniya Khalid-El is in the fourth grade. She wants to become a lawyer. Her debate skills are taking her one step closer to her dream.
“What makes it challenging is when you have to debate and sometimes you don’t know what to say and you have folders to help with your speech,” said Taniya.
Nathaniel White has been in the program for two years. He admits, he’s a tough opponent and learned a lot on the debate league.
“I learned how to speak really clearly and loudly. I also learned how to focus on my speech,” said Nathaniel.
Jarrell Anderson works with students in the Baltimore Urban Debate League. Life was not easy for him. He came from a home where his parents abused drugs.
He cared for his younger brother and sister often scrounging for food. He was in and out of family members homes. He was a bad student until he joined the debate league.
His life turned around and today he has a successful career. He is focused on giving back and helping other students avoid the mistakes he made.
“Those challenges really made me an inwardly frustrated person. Debate really helped me channel that aggression and anger I have about my family situation. I focused it into debate and received some positive results,” said Anderson.
A new independent study shows Baltimore Urban Debate League students are achieving at higher levels than their fellow students. They are more apt to pursue higher education and show up for school.
The study shows debate students had a 94 percent rate of attendance, compared to 88 percent of the general student population. Debate students scored 88 percent higher on state reading tests. They also scored 79 percent higher on state math tests.
“They are succeeding over leaps and bounds,” said Anderson.
The Baltimore Urban Debate League includes more than 1,000 elementary, middle and high school students in 60 schools.
They focus on team policy debates.