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Monmouth University Students Partner with Asbury Park High School Debate Team

As part of an ongoing partnership, Monmouth University (MU) debate team students have been mentoring Asbury Park High School (APHS) students as they learned the art of academic debate and coaching them as they scrimmaged in preparation for their debates. The APHS Debate Team, the Asbury Bishops, was launched in 2009 with eight students. Today, there are 20 students on the team.

The statistics are clear: 100 percent of the students on the Asbury Park High School Debate Team go on to college, many receiving scholarships.  A peer-reviewed study of the Chicago Debate League suggests that “African American male students raised their GPA’s by 50 percent of a letter grade and were 70 percent more likely to graduate from high school than non-debating peers.  Compared to their non-debating peers, African American male debaters were 70 percent more likely to reach the ACT College Ready benchmark in Reading and twice as likely to reach the College Ready benchmark in English.”

At a recent debate tournament that took place at the Institute for Collaborative Education in New York City, the APHS team of Amaris Williams and Sharif James won a fourth place trophy after being coached throughout the year by MU debaters Kelly Craig and Dylan Maynard. Amaris Williams also won a fifth place individual speaking award.

Christine DeMarsico, English teacher and advisor to the APHS Debate Team said, “This partnership is magical as the college students transform our students into debaters while simultaneously teaching our students the importance of college. These students (both MU and APHS) create networks within this debate community, which alters their future, giving them the tools to be leaders in our global society.”

The MU Debate Team, the Debate Hawks, was named the 2010 Program of the Year in the northeast region of the United States by the Society Advocating More and Better Argumentation (SAMBA). They compete against colleges and universities from across the nation including Cornell University,  the US Naval Academy and New York University. The MU debaters met with the APHS students weekly as they prepared to compete with other debaters from throughout the region as part of the Jersey Urban Debate League.

Dr. Joe Patten, chair of the department of political science and sociology and advisor to the MU Debate Team, shared, “Through this distinctive mentorship program, students from Monmouth University and Asbury Park High School improve their debating skills and share experiences. Debaters are both teachers and students according to the code of the debater, and this unique collaboration allows all the students involved to learn from each other.”

The APHS Debate Team effort is funded by TD Bank and the Institute for Global Understanding (IGU) at Monmouth University via a grant from Santander Bank that supports Project BAM. Project BAM is a dynamic mentoring program that joins Monmouth University students with Asbury Park High School students with important facilitation by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Monmouth and Middlesex Counties. This IGU community outreach program also meets the objectives of the United Nations Academic Impact, where academic institutions, including Monmouth University, make a commitment to use education to address global problems.