"Debate saved me; I wasn't sure where I was heading before I rode back from the first day of my very first tournament."
When I was in eighth grade, my U.S. history teacher nominated me to a field trip to, what I now know to be, the Denver Urban Debate League's 1st annual city championship. She had lead some in-class debates and thought that I would really enjoy the activity in high school. I got on that bus not knowing that it would be the most significant trip that I would make in my short 13 years of life.
Debate saved me; I wasn't sure where I was heading before I rode back from the first day of my very first tournament. I kept hearing people telling me that I had so much potential, but I could not find a venue that did all of it justice. I kept hearing about how "adorable" I was-- I was sick of being the cute, quirky little girl with a big voice that was always silenced. Debate was a space where
I could explore my intellect on issues that went far beyond the topic. From transportation infrastructure disparities, to feminism, to biopolitical structures that most people do not realize we live under, debate taught me all of it. It was a catalyst for the research skills that have gotten me to senior-level college classes as a first year college freshman.
DUDL made debate accessible. I did not need to belong to a wealthy school in order to be a successful debater (like the students competing in other leagues do). DUDL made it so I became a strong communicator that was able to maintain strength and focus, regardless of the audience pertaining to the situation. The volunteers made it so that I could become a great debater; I was taught to go beyond the social norms and take academic risks in order to make a change, even if it was only in one room. More importantly, DUDL taught me that success is measured in more than just trophies. Success is the change that a single individual can make on a community, as it is the change that a community can make on a single individual. DUDL is more than a debate league to me. It is a community, a family, a commitment to change in accessibility in academia. DUDL empowered me, like it did for so many other young women, to
never have my voice silenced again. Thanks to DUDL, I can say (without interruptions): I am a debater, hear me roar.
- Selene Figueroa Class of 2013
University of Denver, Sturm College of Law. 2255 East Evans Avenue Suite 406, Denver, CO 80210