When Selene was in eighth grade, her U.S. history teacher nominated her to a field trip to, what she now knows to be, the Denver Urban Debate League's 1st Annual City Championship. Her teacher had lead some in-class debates and thought that Selene would really enjoy the activity in high school. Selene got on that bus not knowing that it would be what she describes as, “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."
Selene kept hearing people telling her that she had so much potential, but she could not find a venue that did all of it justice. She kept hearing about how "adorable" she was-- and was sick of being “the cute, quirky little girl with a big voice that was always silenced”. Debate was a space where Selene felt she could explore her 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.” Selene says this was a catalyst for the research skills that have gotten her to senior-level college classes as a first year college freshman.
Selene feels that DUDL made debate accessible. She did not need to belong to a wealthy school in order to be a successful debater, “like the students competing in other leagues do”. Selene feels that DUDL made it so she 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 she could become a great debater; she 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”. Selene says that DUDL is more than a debate league to her. She describes it as 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”.
University of Denver, Sturm College of Law. 2255 East Evans Avenue Suite 406, Denver, CO 80210
Executive Director, Jessica Clark JessicaClark@urbandebate.org