Lexington, KY – Most Friday afternoons are a time of calm and respite for high schoolers as they look ahead to the weekend. But on the afternoon of Friday, December 11th a group of Kentucky high school students were preparing to spend the next two days competing with almost 600 students from across the country at the New York City Urban Debate League Tournament.
16 students from four Kentucky high schools participated in the tournament. The small-but-mighty Kentucky delegation certainly made a big impact on the tournament. In the novice public forum division, three of the top four teams – including the championship team and the runner-up team – hailed from the Bluegrass State. Kentucky teams also made it to elimination rounds of junior varsity and varsity public forum debate. Many of the students who competed on Friday and Saturday had just finished six weeks of the Bluegrass Debate Coalition After School Debate Program, which prepared them to succeed at a national-level competition.
The Bluegrass Debate Coalition, founded in 2020, works to create competitive debate opportunities for middle schoolers and high schoolers in Kentucky. Overseen by UK’s national championship collegiate debate team and housed in the College of Communication and Information, the BDC teaches students the basics of debate and helps interested students prepare for competition in the After School Debate Program.
Urban Debate Leagues, including the NYCUDL, have been supporting debate education in specific cities and school districts across the US for decades. The BDC turns this model on its head by focusing not just on one city, but on an entire state. “We are dedicated to creating competitive debate opportunities that work for students in urban and rural areas across Kentucky,” said BDC Executive Director Lily Nellans. “We are inspired by what leagues like the NYCUDL have done and hope we can bring a similar level of growth in the activity to the state. It was really exciting that the NYCUDL invited Kentucky schools to participate in their most recent tournament. It was a huge opportunity for our students to be able to debate, and win, on a national level.”