Youth Speak Out at Bay Area Urban Debate League Discussions

Kwodwo Moore (left), Senior, Emery High, and Honorable Vaughn Walker, former Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court in of Northern California, at a discussion Jan. 19, which focused on how to help urban youth break through into successful careers. .

William Hampton, an Oakland high school junior, was recently on the top floor of the TransAmerica Pyramid, where he was leading a discussion on urban education that included, among other civic leaders, Vaughn Walker – former Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court in of Northern California.
Hampton is one of six young people leading roundtable discussions on urban education that have included members of the Board of Supervisors, lawyers, business executives, school board members and others. The discussions are part of an ongoing series hosted by the Bay Area Urban Debate League, a program that involves more than 350 young people in competitive debate.
 According to Emily Murase of the San Francisco Board of Education, who joined the discussion on Jan. 19, the roundtable was an opportunity to engage with students on concrete policy issues. “We have much to learn from the first-hand experiences of our students,” she said. “This exercise is a tremendous asset for education policymakers and community leaders.”
“It was an eye opener,” said Professor Evan Lee of the UC Hastings Law School, who also participated. “Instead of adults saying, ‘We have the knowledge and we are handing it down to you,’ it was the students saying laying out the problems on the ground, and letting us know that until they are addressed, the knowledge doesn’t really help us.”
The Urban Debate League is founded on an understanding that debate has been linked to dramatic achievement gains in urban schools. However, unlike most debate programs, the youth are given opportunities to share their views with the real world actors who can help translate their policy ideas into reality.
Here is the Bay Area debate is increasingly linked directly to training for active citizenship and public leadership. J. Daniel Plants, Managing Partner of Voce Capital, helped to organize the events and sees the roundtable series as a kind of coming-out party for a group of young people who have dedicated years to mastering the crafts of research and argumentation.
 “These young people have the skills and gravitas to join policy deliberations at the highest level,” said Plants.  “They are no longer simply arguing with each other. They are speaking up for groups that are too often left out of the conversation and using their first-hand experience to generate creative solutions to the problems facing urban schools.”
 The next roundtable, also on urban education, will be held in Oakland on February 9. For more information on the Bay Area Urban Debate League go to

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