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Contact:  Shelly Siders, 202-238-2336


Three Students From Local High Schools Win Top Prizes at Academy

Washington, D.C., July, 2005 --  On June 29, high school debaters from across the country visited several members of Congress during “Capitol Hill Day” as part of this year’s Debate Academy at Howard University.  Senators Barack Obama (D-IL), John Kerry (D- MA), and John McCain (R-AZ) met with students to discuss the power and importance of debate.

The Debate Academy at Howard University is a ten-day program designed to empower youth, through the competitive activity of academic policy debating.

Senator Obama said, “When students participate in debate, they learn to study issues in-depth and from all perspectives - a skill that I use every day in the Senate. All the students who participate in this program will find the experience invaluable in the years ahead."

Almost 40 students from urban area public high schools from across the country were accepted into the program’s second year. Out of all of the participants in this year’s Academy three Chicago area students won top prizes.  Tirrell Chester, a senior at John Marshal high school won the “Top Speaker Award,” Amber Walker, a junior at Walter Payton College Prep, won the Varsity Finalist award, which is the second place tournament award, and Claudia Taylor, won the first place award, Varsity Champion (The students are pictured with Senator Obama below).

Sponsors for this year’s Debate Academy include several D.C. area law firms and attorneys, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP, Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal, LLP, J. Gary McDavid, Esq., Kevin Chavous, Esq., Leon Harris, former CNN anchor and celebrity entertainer Missy Elliot.

We are excited about having the Debate Academy as part of the Department of Communication and Culture. Part of our mission is to offer opportunities for students to improve their communication techniques and build confidence. This is an invaluable academic experience for them,” noted Dr. Felicia Walker, chair of the Department of Communication and Culture at the John H. Johnson School of Communications at Howard University.

“The goal of the Debate Academy is to create an ‘academic boot camp’ that will make students more competitive, more effective academic debaters,” says Academy Director, John W. Davis, II, J.D., “in addition to instilling the valuable life skills of communication and conflict resolution. With the help of the National Association of Urban Debate Leagues and the extraordinary efforts of the teaching staff we assembled, we accomplished these goals.”

Howard University, one of only 48 U.S. private Doctoral/Research-Extensive universities, comprises 12 schools and colleges. Founded in 1867, the University’s 11,000 students today enjoy academic pursuits in more than 120 areas of study leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees.  The University continues to attract the nation’s top students and produces more on-campus African-American PhDs than any other university in the world. Since 1998 the University has produced two Rhodes Scholars, a Truman Scholar, a Beinecke Scholar, seven Fulbright Scholars and eleven Pickering Fellows. 

Applications for the Summer 2006 program are currently being accepted.

For more information on the Debate Academy, call (202) 806-4059 and for information about Howard University, call 202-238-2330, or visit the University’s website at


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