Success Academy High School debate team earns perfect score, wins Urban Debate Invitational

From left, members of the Success Academy debate team — Khadydiatou Thiam, Zackhery Facey, Aicha Seck, Daouda Ly, Ibrahima Toure, Joanne Opoku, Aminata Bathily, Joseph Leiva, Keziah Williams, Ryan Peters and Yosairee Orozco.
photo courtesy Success Academy

As high school students gathered last weekend to engage in policy debate, one Success Academy team earned a perfect score, going 9 for 9 in debate rounds without losing a single judge ballot — and earning the 2022 Urban Debate Invitational Champions in Policy Debate title. In addition, the Success Academy team had five top speakers and three teams that advanced.

Among more than 60 teams representing 27 different schools from eight states, the Success Academy HSLA-Manhattan debate team brought six debate partnerships to the tournament in Washington, D.C. The students debated whether the U.S. government and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) should increase their security commitments to emerging technologies (advancement of artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and bioethics). The debaters defended the pros and cons of improving technological initiatives as a way to prevent future technological warfare and maintain national security in the U.S. and abroad.

The Success Academy winners were:

  • Champions: Joseph Leiva (Harlem) and Ryan Peters (Brooklyn)
  • Semifinalists: Aicha Seck (Harlem) and Zackhery Facey (Bronx)
  • Quarterfinalist: Yosairee Orozco (debated individually) (Manhattan)

Success Academy scholars who won individual speaker awards:

  • 1st Place Speaker: Aicha Seck (Grade 11, Harlem)
  • 2nd Place Speaker: Ryan Peters (Grade 10, Brooklyn)
  • 3rd Place Speaker: Zackhery Facey (Grade 11, Bronx)
  • 4th Place Speaker: Joseph Leiva (Grade 11, Harlem)
  • 5th Place Speaker: Yosairee Orozco (Grade 9, Manhattan)

“I am so proud of the debate team’s continued growth and success,” said Aubrey Semple, Success Academy’s debate program manager. “They have worked so hard — and it’s gratifying to see them explore these powerful arguments and discover their voices.”

Success Academy’s debate program allows them to develop as active and engaged citizens both in school and in their own communities, and to test their skills in local, regional and national tournaments. Students develop and leverage active listening skills, insightful articulation and in-depth research techniques as they take on topics such as education and immigration reform, voter fraud, global warming and criminal justice.

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