Blog Post

Great Debate Comes to Maritz

May 21, 2018

On Saturday May 5, six St. Louis Urban Debate League (SLUDL) student debaters and their coaches set up shop on the Maritz campus in St. Louis, MO. They were participating in the Ronald Reagan Foundation Great Communicator Debate Series via an online tournament offered to extend access to students who are unable to attend the five regional tournaments offered throughout the school year.

Debating online for the first-time ever, the students were excited to go up against new competitors and a wider field. At stake: an all-expense paid trip for two students and their coaches to participate in the National Championship, which will be held in Los Angeles at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library this July plus a $1,000 scholarship for each student.

“The National Association for Urban Debate Leagues pressed for the online tournament in order to provide the nation's Urban Debate League students the opportunity to participate. Urban leagues don't have the funds to send their students to regional qualifiers,” says Tamara Boyd, SLUDL’s executive director. This tournament was the first for any urban debate leagues thanks to online access.

And it paid off. Two SLUDL students, Camille Shoals and Audrey Snodgrass, both of Collegiate School of Medicine and Bioscience were victors that day and will now be advancing to nationals where they will compete to win a greater part of $50,000 in scholarships, with first place being awarded $10,000 for college.

And they are not the only winners. Four of the six SLUDL students who competed received the chance to participate in the Reagan Foundation's Leadership in the American Presidency program, which provides them with a college internship in Washington, D.C., in offices such as the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, US Congress and many more. The Reagan Foundation is providing $3,500 toward the internship for each of the qualifying SLUDL students.

As for the virtual tournament itself, with the help of web conferencing technology solution, Zoom, and the Maritz Wifi network, students and judges were able to interact seamlessly and experience firsthand this high tech form of interacting that is growing in use in college admissions offices everywhere.

“I thought the virtual debate was pretty cool,” said Collyn Robinson, Collegiate freshman, “It’s a great outlet if you can’t get to a certain location, and the online aspect releases the pressure of being live in the room.”

Coach Deborah Riggs of Collegiate added, “The virtual tournament offered great exposure for our kids. Many colleges now are going to virtual speaking for interviews and this is a great way for them to build those skills and gain access to scholarship money.”