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Baltimore City College students win national debate title

Stacy M. Brown | 4/24/2015, noon
Baltimore City College Principal Cindy Harcum says she is proud of all of the students at Baltimore City College and ...
Baltimore City College students Nick Imparato and Jonas De La Huerta won the Urban Debate National Championship held at the University of Southern California from April 10 - 12, 2015. (Courtesy Photo/ NAUDL)

— Baltimore City College Principal Cindy Harcum says she is proud of all of the students at Baltimore City College and Nick Imparato and Jonas De La Huerta are certainly no exception. The two have won the Urban Debate National Championship.

“I’m extremely proud. Every day our students do great things and this is another chance where we get to really showcase their skills and ability and this is an opportunity for city students to show [their abilities] beyond the classroom,” Harcum said.

She says Nick and Jonas’ victory means that they are able to compete and succeed on various levels.

“I’m always proud of the work of my students and these two guys are serious and they mean business,” Harcum said. “They are on a mission and they’re obviously well-prepared.”

Both in their junior year, Nick and Jonas said they prepare all year round to compete against the best in speech and debate. The duo says their summers consist of three weeks of research and the remainder of the time crafting an argument that they spend an entire year working on.

“The debate is the end of a culmination of a year’s work,” said Nick, who hopes to eventually work in the nonprofit sector advocating for the homeless and the LBGT community.

Jonas says he hasn’t made up his mind as to what he wants to accomplish career-wise, but noted that the debate team allows for several doors to be open.

“What motivates us most is the drive to do well. We want to meet expectations and while we’re debating, we are able to learn about so many topics,” he said.

The National Association for Urban Debate Leagues (NAUDL) sponsored the national championship, which was held at the University of Southern California from April 10 to April 12, 2015. Nineteen Urban Debate Leagues from around the nation submitted their top teams to compete at the UDNC, officials said in a news release.

“NAUDL was one of the most difficult tournaments at which we have competed,” Nick said. “Every round we had an opportunity to meet new and old teams and learned something new.”

After six preliminary rounds, Nick and Jonas defeated New York City and Milwaukee’s urban debate leagues.

“Because of our ability to travel nationally, we have become good friends with other members of different debate teams,” Jonas said. It was an honor to compete against them.”

In the a tightly contested final round, the two Baltimore City College students defeated Sumner Academy of Arts & Science, one of teams representing the Kansas City urban debate league to win the championship.

NAUDL officials noted that 90 percent of urban debaters graduate on time while each semester that a student debates, his or her grades improve.

Further, at graduation, the average GPA of an urban debater is 3.23, significantly above the college readiness benchmark and after graduating high school, 86 percent

of urban debaters enroll in college and 80 percent are more likely to graduate from an institution of higher education.

“In this critical time in our country, it’s so wonderful to see two young men examining ideas with such elevated critical-thinking skills,” Patrick Daniels, Director of the BCC Speech and Debate Society, said in a statement. “I’m so very proud that these students’ hard work this year is paying off for them.”

The victory at USC has now set the stage for Nick and Jonas to compete for a second national title at the 2015 Grand National Speech and Debate Tournament May 22-24, 2015.

“We have the drive to do well,” Jonas said. “With debating, you have to read a lot of stuff to create an argument and then you have to read a lot more just to get the background. You have to be well-read on a lot of topics.”