CSU Northridge -- October 15, 2003

CSUN Receives Grant to Set Up Debate Teams in Local High Schools

Cal State Northridge has received a grant from The Open Society Institute to establish debate teams in socio-economically disadvantaged public high schools in the Los Angeles area.

The grant, $350,000 for one year and renewable for as many as three years, will fund the Los Angeles Urban Debate League, which will be comprised of seven high schools that will eventually compete against 14 other leagues from around the country.

"The league has a mission of empowering young people who have traditionally been marginalized by giving them a forum for the political and social voices," said Becky Opsata, director of forensics in Northridge's Department of Communication Studies. "One of our goals is to teach the young people we work with to use words, as opposed to violence, to work out their differences."

Dozens of Cal State Northridge communication studies students have volunteered to visit local high schools and teach the youngsters there how to effectively use words to win arguments. They will be joined by students from USC, Pepperdine and CSU Long Beach, which are also taking part in the program.

Those high schoolers taking part in the league will participate in competitions throughout Southern California, attend workshops on debate, and attend a debate camp during the summer.

The San Fernando Valley high schools taking part in the league are Van Nuys, North Hollywood and Cleveland. Other schools include Long Beach Jordan High School in Long Beach, as well as San Gabriel and Gabrielino high schools in San Gabriel.

The league kicked off the debating season on Sept. 27 at Northridge when teams from the various high schools got pointers on how to hone their debate skills and effectively argue their points, and took part in a mini competition.

Opsata said participation on the high school debate team encourages critical thinking and speaking skills that are "requirements for our students as they become adults.

"Taking part in a debate team can really change a high schooler's life," she said.

For more information about the Los Angeles Urban Debate League, visit its Web site at www.debatela.com.

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