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Success Academy Student Makes History Reaching Quarter-Finals at National Debate Tournament of Champions

**FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE, MAY 1, 2018** Contact: Ann Powell, 646-894-6407 [email protected]org
Anna Miroff, 646-650-520 [email protected]


Success Academy Scholars Place Sixth and Seventh at the Invitation-only National Debate Tournament

Youngest African-American Male to Make It to the Lincoln Douglas Quarter-finals

LEXINGTON, KY — Tajaih Robinson, a sophomore at Success Academy High School of the Liberal Arts, became the youngest African-American male to make it to the Lincoln Douglas quarter-finals in the Tournament of Champions’ history. The tournament, an invitation-only competition hosted by the University of Kentucky, is considered the most prestigious in the country and is a magnet for college recruiters seeking out candidates for debate scholarships. “I’m proud of how much progress I made in the period leading up to the tournament,” said Tajaih, who placed seventh overall in his event. “I’m excited I have two more years to get better.” Tajaih, a resident of Harlem, began studying the challenging Lincoln Douglas (LD) debate format only this past fall, after attending a summer debate camp with support from Success Academy. “He wasn’t that good at the beginning of the year,” said the network’s Debate Manager Meagan Kowaleski. “He lost a lot of rounds, but he was intensely focused on getting better. He sought out feedback from every judge and every person who observed him, and it is thrilling to see how it paid off.” Tajaih was joined at the tournament by another member of the Success Academy high school debate team, senior Aida Bathily, who also made the quarter finals and finished sixth overall in the tournament. The debate topic was whether plea bargains should be abolished. In a tough preliminary round, Aida beat the 2018 LD debate Texas state champion Matthew Chen with a unanimous three ballots in her favor. In the octofinals, she defeated Brianna Aaron from Newark’s Science Park High School, the only other African-American female in the division and the 2018 winner of the Dukes & Bailey Cup for LD Debate. The rivals embraced after their round — they will be reunited as teammates when they attend Wake Forest University in the fall, which has one of the top college debate programs in the country. To attend Tournament of Champions, debaters must receive two bids, which come from finishing as finalists and semi-finalists in tournaments throughout the school year. Eighty-eight students, most from highly selective public and private schools including Phillips Academy Andover, Stuyvesant High School, and top private schools in California and Texas, competed in the LD division. Tajaih and Aida were among only seven African-American students who qualified for the division, and Success Academy was one of only a handful of non-selective schools represented. “Most debaters at this tournament come from families who can spend thousands on private coaching,” said Kowaleski. “That’s not the case for Aida and Tajaih. We know these kids will be our country’s future advocates and future lawyers, and money shouldn’t hold them back.” Success Academy is committed to removing such barriers: 850 middle and high school scholars participate in the network’s debate program, in elective classes and competitive teams. Starting in fifth grade, scholars on the debate team spend a minimum of five hours a week in training, and compete in 15 tournaments each year. ABOUT SUCCESS ACADEMY CHARTER SCHOOLS 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 46 schools across Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens, Success Academy enrolls 15,500 students, primarily low-income children of color in disadvantaged neighborhoods: 75% of students receive free or reduced-price lunch, 87% are children of color, 16% are children with disabilities, and 8% are English language learners. Success Academy is the size of the seventh largest school district in New York State and is number one in student achievement, outperforming affluent suburban school districts. For more information about Success Academy, go to and On Twitter at: @SuccessCharters #InsideSuccess
Aida Bathily, 17, and Tajaih Robinson, 15, of Success Academy High School of the Liberal Arts finished sixth and seventh overall in the highly competitive Lincoln Douglas division of the national Tournament of Champions, held in Louisville, Kentucky, April 28-30.

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