From Providence Journal - April 5, 2014
Heated arguments broke out between a large group of city kids at Brown University on Saturday — and that's exactly what the Rhode Island Urban Debate League wanted.
For the third year in a row, the league held its "Community Debate," in which students from urban schools are paired with a college student or adult for a series of head-to-head, team contests.
The topics ranged from timely (universities should offer more financial aid to science majors than humanities majors) to the absurd (time travel should be illegal). No matter the subject, the debate provided high school students the opportunity to think on their feet, speak in public and team up with role models.
In one room, Andrew Medeiros, a junior at Davies Career and Technical High School, in Lincoln, partnered with Brown University undergraduate Stan Tran. Together, they squared off against Merlyz Quesada, a freshman at Providence's E-Cubed Academy, and lawyer Nick Long.
For 15 minutes, they attacked and parried each other's assigned position on whether violent video games should be banned. They argued in front of a volunteer judge who knew a little something about making a strong case — David Logan, dean of the law school at Roger Williams University.
"I'm not saying it's going to solve the issue of violence, but you need to start somewhere," said Quesada.
"Man is a very aggressive species," said Medeiros, asserting that violence stems from that trait, not video games.
At the conclusion of their debate, Logan critiqued their performances.
"There was some very nice back and forth," he said, before suggesting that someone should have raised the issue of freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment.
At the end of the day, two finalists squared off — Joely Barrios, a junior at Classical High School, and Kelley Babphavonyg, a sophomore at Woonsocket High School.
The judges tasked with evaluating their performance included Superior Court Judge Walter R. Stone, Rhode Island College president Nancy Carriuolo, digital journalist Dan McGowan, and Providence City Council members Nicholas J. Narducci Jr. and Samuel D. Zurier.
But everyone won just by participating, according to Ashley Belanger, the debate league's executive director.
"There's no better activity to prepare a young person for anything they want to do in life," she said.
To prove her point, she introduced Genesis Sanchez, who after four years of debate at Juanita Sanchez Educational Complex and making it to nationals, is attending Rhode Island College and collecting recommendations from some of the state's most influential politicians to support her desire to transfer to Brown.
Sanchez talked her classmate Marina Tejada into participating, too.
"When you're outside, you speak street language and slang," said Tejada, who's now studying at CCRI. "Here you have to speak a different language. You become more comfortable speaking in front of people. It really helps your future."
About 60 students participated in the event. During the day, they were welcomed by U.S. Rep. David N. Cicilline, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and Central Falls Mayor James Diossa.