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Success Academy Teams and Scholars Take Top Spots at National Debate and Chess Tournaments


 Contact: Ann Powell, 646-894-6407 [email protected]org

Anna Miroff, 646-650-5201 [email protected]


SA Scholar Takes Home Best Speaker Award at Tournament of Champions Debate and SA Midtown West Scholars Reach Semi-finals

Four SA Chess Players Finish in Top Ten in their Divisions and Five SA Chess Teams Finish in Top Five in Their Divisions

NEW YORK, NY — This past weekend, Success Academy teams and scholars earned top spots at national debate and chess tournaments.

At the University of Kentucky’s Middle School Tournament of Champions, SA Midtown West seventh-grader Susan Aufzien beat out 73 other entrants to win the best speaker award in the Policy Debate division, the oldest and most technical form of debate. Three other Success Academy scholars also took home best speaker awards: Katherine Hayward from SA Midtown West placed 3rd; Absa Diop from SA Harlem North Central placed 5th; and Emma De La Rosa from SA Harlem East placed 9th.

The team from Success Academy Midtown West, Hayward and Aufzien, reached the semi-finals, finishing 3rd out of 37 teams at this invitation-only competition. Four other Success teams -- SA Ditmas Park, SA Harlem North Central, and two teams from SA Midtown West -- finished in the top 15.

The Success Academy students were debating an issue particularly relevant to their lives: education. Policy debaters took on the question of whether the United States federal government should substantially increase funding and/or regulation of elementary and secondary education in the United States.

“We are so proud of our scholars and all the work they and our coaches have put forth,” said Meagan Kowaleski, manager of debate at Success Academy. “At the end of the day we don't care about the awards — we care about all the skills they have learned this season that translates to real world impacts: these are our future advocates and lawyers.”

At the National Elementary School Championships for chess in Nashville, four Success Academy scholars placed in the top 10 in their divisions and SA Hell’s Kitchen third grader Brewington Hardaway placed 8th in the highly competitive K3 Championship division. Additionally, five Success Academy teams -- two from SA Hudson Yards, two from SA Bed-Stuy, and one from SA Washington Heights -- finished among the top five in their divisions.

The victories are a triumphant end of the season for the Success Academy players, who came to Nashville following a string of victories at the New York State, All-Girls State, and All-Girls National Championships. One hundred and six students from 14 Success Academy schools traveled to Nashville for the tournament, joining thousands of players from across the country to duke it out in what is considered the Super Bowl of scholastic chess.

“Our scholars found the right balance between having fun and staying focused and competitive, and it was a treat to see how they put their all into the games,” said Sean O’Hanlon, Success Academy’s senior manager of chess. “The competition is tough, and I’m incredibly proud of the grit and talent they displayed.”

Success Academy is committed to removing barriers to debate and chess, which have both traditionally been dominated by selective private and public schools and students who can afford private coaches and costly camps. By contrast, Success Academy is open enrollment, largely serving students who are low-income and minority. Widely known for its perennially high student achievement, the network’s students are increasingly attracting attention for their accomplishments in non-academic subject areas, including debate and chess.

This year, 850 Success Academy middle and high school scholars participated 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. Meanwhile, approximately 9,000 SA students receive weekly chess instruction as required part of the curriculum in grades K through 2. Starting in 3rd grade, chess teachers recruit players who have shown ability and interest for the school chess team, and students begin training in earnest — meeting at least two hours each week and participating in more than 100 tournaments each year.


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.

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Susan Aufzien (right) won the Best Speaker Award in the national Tournament of Champions policy debate competition, and with teammate Katherine Hayward placed third out of 37 teams in Lexington, Kentucky, on Sunday.


 Brewington Hardaway, a third grader from SA Hell’s Kitchen, placed 8th in the highly competitive K3 Championship division.


106 scholars from 14 Success Academy schools traveled to Nashville to compete in the National Elementary School Championship.


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