In the fall of 2010, Allstate began it’s Expanding Opportunities Initiative which focused on schools with 90% or higher Title I (low-income) students.  The objective of the Initiative is to expand competitive academic debate to these schools were it can make a fundamental difference in their lives.

On May 21, the CDL held the Allstate Expanding Opportunities Junior Varsity Invitational, its final debate competition of the school year.  The tournament featured twenty eight first-year teams from twelve high schools that participated in the Expanding Opportunities Initiative. Its five rounds were the final debates on the “military presence” topic.  The tournament was graciously hosted by Marine Math and Science Academy, on Chicago’s west side, and the Academy’s Principal, Len Harris.

The University of Chicago Charter School – Woodlawn team of Isaac Brown and Vernon Fleming took home first place with an undefeated record.

The tournament also helped participating schools to start building their programs for next year.  April Dressel, coach at Henry Ford Academy Power House H.S., commented, “I was excited to hear about this opportunity.  In order to recruit students for next year, I wanted to build their confidence this spring by sending them to this one-day event.  This Invitational will help us start next season off strong.  Next year, I’d like to bring our team back with more students involved and the goal of making the elimination rounds at multiple tournaments.”

James Dasher, coach at Bowen H.S., agreed, saying, “This tournament was a great experience.  It was a great opportunity for new debaters to hone their skills in a competitive environment.  My new recruits are better prepared but more than that they’re much more enthused for next year because of today.”


Student reaction was also positive.  Jackie Tavera, a 10th grader at Farragut Career Academy, said, “Debating here was fun.  We debated against new schools and new teams.  This was my first tournament.  I learned a lot about debate.  I’m definitely going to debate next year.”