City Council District #9 Debate Initiative


"Harlem Legacy" - a documentary about District #9's award winning PS 161 Debate Team


Our Mission

Every school  should have a debate team. Every student should have access to the best debate education opportunities. Debate is one of the best academic programs to prepare students for college, career, and civic success.


Special Awards, Recognition, and Media:


Each year, District #9 wins the City and State Championships. Debaters specifically from PS 161 are always in the top ten of local tournaments.


Harlem Legacy Documentary


Meet the High School Debaters Performing On Broadway



Tournaments Hosted


Our flagship program is our Saturday Debate Tournaments. We host debate tournaments every month during the school year and summer for high school and middle school students. Each monthly debate tournament will feature different topics including current events, economics, environmental affairs, philosophy, international politics, law and justice, and every other topic - topics traditionally not covered in school curriculums.  Students practice every academic skill preparing for these tournaments including reading, writing, researching, listening, practicing, public speaking, questioning, team work, and every other academic skill.  Academic learning time basically doubles through this out of school time program and culminates with the monthly debate tournament. At each tournament we serve over 300 students, teachers, family members and volunteers. Tournaments are all day from 7:00am-5:00pm and include breakfast, lunch, debate rounds and an awards ceremony.  Our Tournaments are free thanks to City Council support.


Middle School Tournament #1 (first Saturday of every October) @ PS 161


PS 161 hosts the first middle school tournament of the school year. There are over 300+ total participants including over 200 students and 100 adults (parents, teachers, judges, families and community volunteers)


Tournament Photo Album


Website Landing Page of the Tournament


Tournament Results Page


Middle School Tournament @ Hugo Newman Middle School 


Hugo Newman is home to one of Harlem's top debate programs and also host to our annual debate tournament.


Website Landing Page of the Tournament


Tournament Results Page


Middle School City Championships (March) @ PS 161


District #9 also hosts our Middle School Championships each year at the end of the school year. Hosted every year at PS 161 and the Hamilton Grange School. 300+ total participants. Over 200 students served. Over 100 volunteers, guests, parents from the community. This is a Saturday and Sunday Tournament. We provide breakfast, lunch, debate rounds all day and an awards ceremony. On Sunday we host elimination rounds for the top teams including quarterfinals, semifinals and the Final Round.


Tournament Photo Album Day 1


Tournament Photo Album Day 2


Website Landing Page of the Tournament


Tournament Results Page



District Schools and Students Served


Half of our work is debate tournaments every Saturday. The other half of our work is how we support our teachers, schools and students through outreach and starting and sustaining debate programs in schools. We have outreach coordinators in each Borough to support schools, train teachers, provide curriculum and professional development, coordinate local debate scrimmages, year round virtual support (webinars, emails, phone calls, etc), help teachers recruit and start debate programs at their school, and anything else needed to start and sustain a successful debate team. We provide assistant coaches and volunteers to schools to support their debate programs. We have all day teacher training conferences at least four times a year.


As a result we have successfully partnered with the following schools in the district to create sustainable and successful debate programs through year round support:


District Schools Served:


Frederick Douglass Academy

Frederick Douglass Academy II

Harlem Educational Activities Fund


PS 161 Pedro Albizu Campos

PS/MS149 Sojourner Truth School

St HOPE Leadership Academy

Thurgood Marshall Academy

Thurgood Marshall Academy for Learning and Social Change

Wadleigh Secondary School



Other District Debate Programs

  • Debate Club. All District students are able to participate in our debate programs for free. We have a Debate Club that serves students without debate teams at their schools.
  • The Harlem Summer Debate Institute. For the past five years we host the Harlem Summer Debate Institute in partnership with Columbia University, HEAF, and PS 161. While traditional summer debate institutes costs thousands of dollars. We provide free summer debate camp to over 100 students in District 1 which includes a week long summer debate camp from 9:00am-3:00pm with lectures and workshops by top debate instructors, breakfast, lunch, and a summer debate tournament.