Middle Schoolers Learn Debate

Big Red program travels to Ohio to share expertise
Friday, July 15, 2016

The Cornell Speech and Debate Program helped more than 20 Ohio middle school students, many of them from low-income or refugee families, gain public speaking and interpersonal skills this summer.

Cornell Director of Forensics Sam Nelson worked with the International Institute of Akron, a nonprofit that supports the integration of immigrants and refugees into society, in launching the Inquiring Minds Summer Debate Camp in June.

The collaboration offered middle school students the opportunity to increase their understanding of debate principles and to build their confidence, said Ming-Hao Shiao, director of education and employment at the institute.

At the same time, Nelson said, it allowed Cornell’s debate program a chance to share its expertise with middle school students, many of whom are the children of immigrants.

The Akron pilot program will be expanded by the debate program to cities in New York state and, possibly, to other states, said Nelson, a senior lecturer at the ILR School, where the university’s debate program is based.

"The Cornell Speech and Debate Program is an amazing resource that can be very beneficial to many kinds of people and communities beyond the Cornell campus through an active program of outreach and engagement focused on helping individuals improve their critical thinking and communication skills," he said.

Shiao praised ILR’s involvement. “The Inquiring Minds initiative is dedicated to the training and practice of inquiry and argumentative literacy, and this program could not have happened without Cornell ILR’s support and guidance.”

“Sam Nelson and his team fully supported the design, development and implementation by guiding and mentoring my staff and the students,” Shiao said.

“Moreover, key stakeholders in Akron, from Akron Public Schools to our funders and other community partners, had an opportunity to experience the expertise and dedication Cornell has for educating and supporting youth development.”