New York City Urban Debate League: Investigating Youth's Experiences in a "Democracy in Action" Afterschool Program

Completed in 2006

Project Director: Georgia Hall, Ph.D.

This research project investigated the approach and activities of the New York City Urban Debate League (NYCUDL) and commented on how youth, through participation in these leagues, develop democracy skills and experiences that can affect personal change. Urban debate leagues organized interscholastic debate as an academic competition and promote debate as a valuable learning tool. This research study:

  1. described the components of the debate program
  2. profiled the youth and adult participants
  3. provided an analysis of the “debate” approach and activities as an example of "democracy in action"
  4. presented an exploration of the experiences of and impacts on participating youth
  5. investigated the infrastructure that supports the delivery of urban debate activities

There is a good amount of literature describing the elements of debate and how skills developed in debate may transfer to other endeavors — such as creating a stronger foundation for academic achievement, etc. The purpose of this study was to look deeper into how youth actually experience the democratic ideals and skills that form the foundation of a debate program, and in what ways those experiences influence the youth's understanding of, participation in, and consideration of democracy. 

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    "NIOST has been an anchor for numerous school age care projects we do, including ASQ (After-School Quality) and Links to Learning. They are a nationally respected organization that Pennsylvania has partnered with for over 20 years."

    – Betsy O. Saatman, TA Specialist/SAC Initiatives, Pennsylvania Key

    "NIOST was a core partner in supporting the development of quality improvement systems across the nine cities that participated in The Wallace Foundation Next Generation Afterschool System-Building Initiative. The NIOST team worked well with other technical assistance partners in the initiative, always willing to pitch in and collaborate with others to make our professional learning community meetings a team effort. I truly hope the Foundation has an opportunity to partner with them in the future."

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    "NIOST has been a leader in the out-of-school time field for as long as I can remember, and I have relied on their research, tools, and advice to improve my practice throughout my career. Their staff members are good partners and good listeners, and their influence across the country is palpable."

    – Jane Quinn, Vice President and Director of National Center for Community Schools, Children's Aid Society

    "Georgia Hall, Ellen Gannett, and the NIOST team have been instrumental in driving the healthy afterschool movement. Their dedication to quality practice, informed policy, and collective impact is instrumental in our effort to create healthier communities."

    – Daniel W. Hatcher, Director, Community Partnerships, Alliance for a Healthier Generation

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