Queen Eche and Hillary Nguyen of Alief ISD’s Kerr High School took second place at the Urban Debate National Championship in Washington, D.C. Eche was also recognized as the second best individual speaker in the tournament. The Kerr High students, who narrowly lost to Chicago’s Lane Technical College Preparatory High School, represented the first Houston Urban Debate League team to reach the finals round at the national championship tournament.
Over the April 12-14 weekend, the champions of the nation’s twenty-two urban debate leagues gathered at Georgetown University to debate immigration reform, this year’s high school policy debate topic. The tournament was sponsored by the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues, which promotes policy debate programming at urban schools.
The Kerr High team qualified for the National Championship tournament by winning the Houston Urban Debate League’s City Championship tournament in March. Ms. Eche and Ms. Nguyen took top honors at that tournament by edging out Khalida Amla and Riley Hardwick from Harmony School of Advancement, a Houston charter school. Harmony also participated in the national tournament as runners-up.
“HUDL is so proud of these students,” said HUDL Board Chairman Eric Emerson. “We started the league eleven years ago to bring debate back to economically disadvantaged schools, because we know how debate can transform a student’s education and life. But we also wanted to show Houston students could compete on a national stage. This proves what our coaches, volunteers, and supporters have known for a long time.”
Kerr High School participates in HUDL thanks to HUDL’s partnership with the Harris County Department of Education’s “CASE Debates” program, an initiative of the HCDE’s Center for Afterschool, Summer, and Enrichment for Kids. CASE Debates Coordinator Toni Candis, who accompanied the team to Washington, said ”we are excited for both teams to gain the experience and opportunity to compete at the national level.” Javier Lopez, a former HUDL debater who now works with CASE, added ”Queen and Hilary have made sacrifices in order to get to where they are today. Both students spent the majority of their summer at several debate institutes, countless weekends at debate tournaments, and a limitless amount of hours perfecting their style and delivery. As a first year debater Hilary has grown at an unprecedented rate, and Queen makes it look easy. I am excited to see just how far these students will go as their careers have just begun.”
As HUDL city champions, Ms. Eche and Ms. Nguyen each earned Benjamin Donald Hatfield Scholarships to assist with their college educations, as well as HUDL and NAUDL donor support to attend the national championship tournament.