Every summer, the Chicago Debate League kicks-off the upcoming season with its summer program, the Chicago Debate Summer Institute (CDSI). For the past 15 years, the CDSI has offered public school students in Chicago opportunity to prepare for the upcoming debate season at this intensive multi-week program, aimed at introducing new debaters to argument and debate and helping more advanced students to refine their debate skills. More than 125 students from 34 schools attended this year’s program. The students were separated into six different ‘lab’ groups according to experience and skill level. Attendance at this year’s institute was particularly strong, with daily attendance rates exceeding 90% each day.

This year, the CDSI expanded to three full weeks for the first time in its fifteen-year history, giving students more debate instruction than ever before. The three weeks covered a variety of different topics in lectures, small group labs, in practice debates, and in field trips. All students were introduced to the 2011-12 debate topic, which centers around the United States’ future in space, in addition to experience-level specific instruction on debate mechanics and argument strategy. The instruction also included faculty demonstration debates, flowing and speaking drills, practice speeches, mini-debates, diagnostic assessment of theory knowledge, and learning games meant to engage debaters and reinforce concepts introduced.

This year’s CDSI also attracted the attention of CPS Chief Executive Officer Jean-Claude Brizard, who spent the afternoon of August 9th at the institute. He observed lab groups in action, stopped by to speak to coaches engaged in teacher training, and conducted a listening session with 15 leading debaters from around the city. He wanted to hear from these students about their experience in the CDL, and their student-leader views on a variety of strategies his administration is considering (e.g., longer school days, student evaluations of teachers) to improve the academic performance of CPS schools.

CPS CEO Brizard commented about his visit to CDSI, “Visiting the Chicago Debate League was a great opportunity to engage in a conversation with some of our CPS students. As a lifelong educator, it’s very important to me to spend time with students to listen to their concerns and have a meaningful dialog about important issues that affect them. The CDL students provided significant and thoughtful insight that I will take back with me as I work towards our goal of all CPS students graduating college and career ready.”

Marissa Bacon, of Daniel Hale Williams H.S. said of her experience in the focus group, “Meeting Mr. Brizard made me realize that CPS administrators really do care about the opinions and inputs of the students. It’s amazing how the CEO came and made a diverse group of kids feel comfortable talking about the real issues confronting our educations.”

The staff at this year’s CDSI was exceptional, featuring a combination of the CDL’s best teacher-coaches and some of the nation’s most accomplished collegiate and former high school debaters:

  • Bill Altorfer, Hyde Park Academy HS: Bill has been one of the top external coaches in the history of the League, guiding multiple students to tournament championships and winning the 2009 CDL Adjudicator of the Year. In addition to his work with the CDC and Hyde Park, Bill is an alum of the University of Chicago and a returning CDSI instructor.
  • Cara Bader: Cara recently completed her Master’s degree in Urban Planning at UIC, works at World Business Chicago, a Chicago area non-profit, and has assisted as a volunteer with the Hyde Park Academy debate team. She was one of the top high school debaters in the country at Cedar Rapids Washington High School.
  • Robb Berry, Northside College Prep: Robb has built one of the top teams competitively in the RCC and coached debaters of all levels of experience.
  • Deven Cooper, Cal State Fullerton: Deven is a graduate assistant coach at Cal State Fullerton and won the 2008 CEDA National Championship for Towson State University. He is a returning CDSI instructor.
  • Aaron Davis, University of Pennsylvania: Aaron is a former Northside and Payton College Prep external coach, Pomona College alum and Posse Scholar, current University of Pennsylvania graduate student, and former Morgan Park High School 2004 Chicago Debate League City Champion and Tournament of Champions qualifier (the first urban debater ever to do so).
  • Scott Dodsworth, Thomas Kelly HS: Scott has built one of the largest and most successful teams in the history of the Chicago Debate League at Thomas Kelly and is one of the most veteran coaches in the League.
  • Jim Dorrell, Marshall Metro HS: Jim has turned Marshall into one of the largest, most competitive teams in the entire CDL, with awards at both the Varsity and JV levels.
  • Muriel Dorsey, Illinois State University: Muriel is a scholarship debater at Illinois State and was one of the top debaters in the CDL at Prosser Career Academy, winning the 2010 Richard M. Daley Leadership Award.
  • Cydney Edwards, University of Wisconsin Madison: Cydney is a University of Wisconsin Madison undergraduate and returning CDSI instructor who is one of the best CDL debaters in recent memory, finishing as Top Speaker and Finalist at the 2007 Chicago Debate Championship for Morgan Park High School and qualifying for the National Forensic League Nationals.
  • Andrew Glennon, Hope College Prep: Andrew is an external coach for Hope College Prep and former Pontiac High School National Forensic League Nationals-qualifying debater, trained in argument as a lawyer, and has been instrumental in leading Hope students to increased success, specializing in increasing the ability of struggling students to organize and argue complex materials.
  • Ross Gordon, Emory University: Ross is a returning CDSI instructor and was the Top Speaker at the 2009 Tournament of Champions as a high school senior and National Debate Tournament Octofinalist for Emory University.
  • Mary Gregg, Glenbrook North HS: Mary is a recent Northwestern University graduate, full-time assistant debate coach for Glenbrook North, and returning CDSI instructor who was one of the top college debaters in the country this past season, including Octofinals at the National Debate Tournament, Quarterfinals at Harvard University, and a Top 10 ranking in the country in a spring coaches’ poll.
  • Dave Hayes, King College Prep: Dave has made a very strong impact in his time as a coach, starting at Jones College Prep and now leading the King College Prep team, which advanced to the JV Semifinals at the Chicago Debate Championship after a year of successful performances and increased participation.
  • Kurt Hilgendorf, Von Steuben Metro Science Center: Kurt has been a regular CDSI instructor, known for his strong teaching skills along with his experience as a National Forensic League Nationals-qualifying debater at Pontiac High School.
  • Kevin Hirn, University of Michigan and Whitney Young HS: Kevin was a part of the most successful urban debate team in history, winning both the Chase Urban Debate National Championships and the National Forensic League Nationals as a senior at Whitney Young. He is now a scholarship debater at the University of Michigan on their top team, ranked among the best in college debate.
  • Melina Luna, Alcott HS for the Humanities: Melina has been one of the top young coaches in the League, building a large and successful team at Alcott High School, including Varsity Quarterfinals at the Chicago Debate Championship in only their second year of debate.
  • Jessica Mulder, Hyde Park Academy HS: Jessie made a big mark in her first year as head coach at Hyde Park, more than doubling the size of her team with her enthusiasm and leadership.
  • Brian Peterson: Brian was a successful college debater at the University of Texas Austin, qualifying for the elimination rounds at the National Debate Tournament, and was a top assistant coach at Lane Tech and Glenbrook South. Brian is a returning CDSI instructor.
  • Josh Rivera, Southern Illinois University and Lane Tech: Josh is one of the brightest young alums the CDL has seen in a long time, winning the 2011 Richard M. Daley Leadership Award, Finalist and Top Speaker at the Chicago Debate Championship, and Semifinalist and Top Speaker at the NAUDL Urban Debate Nationals.
  • Wayne Tang, Maine East High School (guest lecturer): Wayne is known as one of the top coaches in the Midwest and is a Key Coach at the Emory University Barkley Forum, in addition to being a patent attorney at Nixon Peabody LLP.

One exceptional programming addition to this year’s programming included an array of college information sessions and three days of college visits, organized by the CPS Office of Student Support and Engagement. Students attended three full-day field trips to Northwestern University, DePaul University, and to Knox College in Galesburg, IL. Each trip featured a guided tour of campus, supplemented by information sessions with admissions and financial aid officers.

In addition to increased the college access component of the institute, the Office of Student Support and Engagement also organized for J. Ivy, a Chicago-based recording artist and motivational speaker, to attend the institute and conduct a workshop on the importance of verbal advocacy skills. Ivy has recorded with some of the biggest names in hip-hop and R&B, including Jay-Z, Kanye West, Mos Def, Common, John Legend, and others.