Six Metro Nashville Public School (MNPS) students will attend a three-week policy debate institute at the University of Michigan from June 22 to July 9 as the result of a recent partnership between the Nashville Debate League and Conexión Américas. Participating students include, sophomores Herberth Sanchez and Brunny Lopez from Glencliff High School, sophomore David Martinez from Overton High School and juniors Angie Rodriguez, Vanessa Hernandez and Paola Pastor from Lead Academy.

The six participating MNPS students are first-generation Americans, all of whom aspire to be the first in their families to attend college. The University of Michigan Debate Institute is a great step toward that goal. The Michigan Debate Institute is a highly rigorous program attended by the most successful debate teams inthe country, including the winners of the last 12 Tournament of Champions in high school policy debate.

This summer, the nearly 400 students attending the camp will come from 37 states and will include students from Nashville private schools, Montgomery Bell Academy and University School of Nashville. The camp consists of a comprehensive lecture series on argumentation theory, debating skill workshops and practice debates. Students will also build a solid foundation of basic debate theory and will hone their analytical argumentation skills and persuasive speaking styles. Participating students will reside on the University of Michigan campus for the duration of the program and will attend lectures and workshops at the University.

The six MNPS students attending the debate camp are members of the Nashville Debate League (NDL), a nonprofit organization founded in 2010 to bring policy debate programs to MNPS. The league operates, in part, through a generous grant from the Nashville Public Education Foundation. With the newly available funding, the NDL seeks to expand their policy debate program in the eight high schools they already serve (Hillwood, Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet, Hunters Lane, McGavock, Martin Luther King, Jr., Lead Academy, White Creek and East Nashville Magnet) and build two additional programs at Overton and Glencliff High Schools— two schools where Conexión Américas already operates an after-school college-access program.

To build the two new programs, the Nashville Debate League recently formed a partnership with Conexión Américas, a long-standing Nashville nonprofit whose mission is to build a welcoming community where Latino families can belong, contribute and succeed. Conexión Américas has recently expanded the scope of their work to include education policy initiatives in order to address the chronic educational disparities that exist with Latino students and other students of color in Tennessee.

“It is the ideal match,” said Alexza Barajas Clark, board member of the Nashville Debate League and research and communications manager at Conexión Américas. “To rely on the expertise of Conexión Américas in understanding the educational achievement gaps of students of color in Nashville and across the state is precisely what the NDL needed to ground the work that we do,” continued Barajas Clark.

“The University of Michigan Debate Program is thrilled to join with Conexión Américas on this innovative partnership. Diversity, equity and inclusion are major priorities for UM and this relationship increases our ability to attract top academic students from around the country to Ann Arbor for part of the summer,” said Aaron Kall, Director of Debate at the University of Michigan. “We have great hope that a positive camp experience will propel these students to strongly consider the University of Michigan as top choice for college. The recruitment process will begin immediately, as the students will spend significant time in top-notch University facilities and learn about the admissions process. We expect this will be only the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership that will pay strong dividends for everyone.”