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Memphis City School Debate Teams Will Hold Inaugural Championship Tournament at U of M Feb. 21 & 22 University News
For release: February 18, 2009

For press information, contact Simone Notter Wilson, 901.678.4164

More than 100 students from 15 Memphis high schools will come to the University of Memphis this weekend to compete in the Memphis Urban Debate League’s (MUDL) City Championship Tournament on Friday, February 20, and Saturday, February 21. The tournament is a collaboration of MUDL, the U of M’s Department of Communication, the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues (NAUDL) and several sponsoring community partners.

All debate rounds are open to the public.

Following preliminary and elimination rounds on Friday and Saturday, quarter- and semifinals will be held in the Theatre and Communication building, starting at 2:45 p.m. on Saturday. The awards ceremony for the speaker awards and top 10 teams will be held at the University of Memphis Holiday Inn Ballroom at 1 p.m. on Saturday. The featured speaker will be Dr. Richard Ranta, dean of the U of M College of Communication and Fine Arts.

The top two teams will debate on Saturday from 7:15 to 9 p.m. in the U of M’s Main Stage Theatre located in the Theatre and Communication building. NAUDL will award the two finalists and their coaches an all-expenses paid trip to compete in the Chase Urban Debate National Championship in Chicago in April.

Participating high schools are Fairley, Kirby, Kingsbury, Memphis Health Careers Academy, Middle College, Oakhaven, Overton, Raleigh-Egypt, Treadwell, Trezevant, Westwood, Whitehaven, and Wooddale.

Location information for all competing teams will be available at the registration and information table in Mitchell Hall.

For more information about the event, contact Sarah Meltzer, league director, at (901) 277-5627.

After being absent from Memphis City Schools for the past 40 years, debate returned to Memphis City Schools this past summer, largely due to the effort of Jim Sdoia, president of the Memphis Urban Debate League Advisory Board.

“When I think about my time in high school, I can name two things from that time that have helped me tremendously in my professional career,” Sdoia said. “I took a speed reading class, and I was part of a debate team.”

When he recently retired from a position in marketing and sales, Sdoia was looking for a project that gives back to and supports the community. “I thought that I could volunteer to be a debate coach for a school team but quickly learned that debate didn’t exist in Memphis City Schools.”

That was in 2007, and only a year later, with the help of NAUDL, the support of Memphis City Schools, and a signed Memorandum of Understanding, the Memphis Urban Debate League began its inaugural season with a Summer Debate Institute in July 2008. Since then the league has held five tournaments, six coaches’ seminars, and student workshops, as well as several judges’ training sessions. The Memphis League plans to add five new schools per year until all Memphis City High Schools are part of the program.

“Debate leagues have proven to increase literacy scores, improve grade-point averages and graduation rates, and generate high college matriculation rates, and we hope to make an impact in all these areas for Memphis City School students.” Sdoia said.

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