Success Academy Middle School Debate Teams Shine Against Country’s Top High Schools in 47th Annual Harvard National Debate Tournament
February 19, 2021
**For Immediate Release, February 19, 2021**
Sam Chafee, 401-368-5124
SUCCESS ACADEMY MIDDLE SCHOOL DEBATE TEAMS SHINE AGAINST COUNTRY’S TOP HIGH SCHOOLS IN 47TH ANNUAL HARVARD NATIONAL DEBATE TOURNAMENT
Semi-finalists, Kassandra Jazmin Sinchi (L) and Yosairee Orozco (R), both grade 7, of SA Midtown West
NEW YORK, NY – They’re only in seventh-grade, but Success Academy Midtown West’s Kassandra Jazmin Sinchi and Yosairee Orozco trounced almost all their high school competitors in the 47th Annual Harvard National Debate Tournament over President’s Day Weekend. The middle schoolers made it all the way to the Semifinals in the JV Policy section, eventually falling to Lake Travis High School of Austin, Texas, which went on to win it all.
SA middle schools beat top private high schools from across the country including Georgetown Day School, The University of Chicago Lab School, and Berkeley Preparatory School, among others. Four Success Academy teams made it to the Quarter Finals of the JV Policy section including SA Hudson Yards, SA East Flatbush, SA Midtown West, and SA High School of the Liberal Arts. Silma Bathily, an SA senior from Harlem, made it to the 64th round in the Varsity Lincoln Douglas section out of a contestant pool of more than 240 competitors. Brianna Edwards, an SA sophomore from the Bronx, came in 4th place in the individual Speaker Awards out of nearly 90 speakers.
Overall, 19 middle school teams and four high school teams competed virtually, with scholars debating in four rounds each day with each round lasting two hours for a total of eight grueling hours of competition a day. This year’s tournament drew 4,486 competitors representing 483 schools from 46 states. Scholars debated reforming the criminal justice system in one of three categories: forensic science, policing, and sentencing. SA teams competed in the Varsity Lincoln Douglas, Junior Varsity Policy, and Novice Policy sections.
“The Harvard National Tournament is one of the most prestigious high school debate tournaments in the country, so we are thrilled with how our scholars performed and proud of how they prepared,” said Prachi Patel, Success Academy Middle School Debate Coach. “They are very committed and always manage to impress us by competing against high-schoolers.”
“Given the pressure of the highly competitive Harvard National Tournament, I am so proud of the hard work of our scholars. Given their ability to be flexible to various arguments, persuading the hearts and minds of the judges and to articulate their points in a strategic fashion, allowed for our program to do so well,” said Aubrey Semple, Success Academy High School Debate Coach.
In the weeks leading up to the Harvard tournament, scholars met virtually in the mornings before school to prepare their arguments and speeches with their partners and coaches, and sharpened their skills by competing at other local debate tournaments.
SA’s middle school debate teams consistently qualify for national high school competitions. Starting in 5th grade, SA scholars have the opportunity to join the competitive debate team, which extends through high school. SA scholars as young as 10 compete against high school seniors as old as 18. The program is so strong that the middle school teams only compete against high schools in external tournaments.
Founded in 2006, Success Academy Charter Schools are free public K-12 schools open to all children in the state through a random lottery. With 47 schools across Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens, Success Academy enrolls 20,000 students, primarily children of color from low-income households in disadvantaged neighborhoods: 74% receive free or reduced-price lunch, 94% are students of color, 16% have disabilities, and 8% are English language learners. In 2020, 100% of SA’s third and largest class of 99 graduating seniors were accepted to college, with 22% accepted to highly selective and 47% to selective institutions, with robust financial aid packages; 82% of the class will be the first in their families to attend college.
For more information about Success Academy, go to successacademies.org.
Brianna Edwards, grade 10 (L) and Silma Bathily, grade 12 (R) of SA High School of the Liberal Arts