Eagles Judge Middle School ASAP Debate Tournament

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Philadelphia Eagles' defensive end, Aziz Shittu, joined ASAP as a celebrity judge at December's middle school debate tournament

On Monday, December 12th, ASAP Debate held the largest middle school debate tournament in its history during which students passionately presented pro and con arguments on whether direct popular vote should replace the Electoral College. The event, hosted at J.R. Masterman School, featured 124 students from 11 different schools competing across three rounds.


Prior to the first round, youth crowded the Masterman cafeteria as they rehearsed their opening presentations.  When asked, a young middle schooler cheered over the excitement, “I do debate because I’m gonna be Mayor.” His classmate chuckled in response stating, “well watch out, because I’m going to be president.” Without question, the outcome of the recent presidential election added relevance and urgency to many of the students’ arguments.  “My voice isn’t being heard…Our voices aren’t being heard,” contested middle school debate student, Akayla Brown of Overbrook Educational Center, in favor of direct popular vote. However, as with all debates, students must be prepared to defend both sides of the argument and develop an appreciation for perspectives other than their own.


Special guest, Philadelphia Eagles’ Aziz Shittu, joined ASAP Debate for one of the tournament’s championship rounds. During the NFL season, Monday is typically reserved as a day off for the team. However, many Eagles players, such as Shittu, use this chance to enhance their community through the Eagles Care Community Monday Initiative, by teaming up with local non-profit charities to make a lasting impact on the community. Eagles’ defensive end Aziz faced the daunting task of judging middle school debaters Jewel Austin & Jasmine Jackson of Overbrook Educational Center and Akayla Brown & Eman Ghanem of Laboratory Charter School on replacing the Electoral College. Shittu was in the hot seat.

Czj7YrVXUAEAMYqPhiladelphia Eagles- Julie Bacanskas

 Other participating schools included Masterman, Mastery Charter School Hardy Williams, Overbrook Educational Center, Boys’ Latin Charter School, Friends Select, Young Scholars Charter School, Greenfield Elementary School, Hamilton Elementary School, Freire Charter School, the Laboratory Charter School, and Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School. Principal Brown of J.R. Mastermen School, kicked off the event, reminding the students, supporting faculty and volunteer judges that, “We must always remember that first and foremost we will have fun today.” Students cheered in excitement as they shuffled with their teammates through Mastermen hallways, for the first round…among them, many future leaders. 

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Overall, Masterman placed first, with 7th graders Keziah Miller and José DeSilva named as the top debaters on their team, while an additional 5 top speakers were recognized in a special feature in the Philadelphia Public School Notebook

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Photo credit: Rachel Utain-Evans
Finally, ASAP’s special guest, Aziz Shittu, addressed the students during the award ceremony, encouraging the youth to pursue the activities that they love, work hard at it, put the time in and most importantly, stick to it. His attitude of commitment and dedication to nurturing young talents, showcased on stage as he eloquently spoke to the middle schoolers about their futures.

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Photo credit: Rachel Utain-Evans
While many youth left their contentions and resolutions behind as the tournament concluded, no student left without the notion of remembering to have fun doing what they love.

ASAP thanks Principal Brown, Mr. Gilligan and the Masterman Debate team for providing a welcoming environment for ASAP Debate’s record-setting number of middle school debaters. In addition, ASAP thanks Eagles Care Community for supporting ASAP— especially the Eagles Charitable Foundation and Aziz Shittu – for their steadfast support of youth in Philadelphia.
When students return in January 2017, they will explore the critical facts in opinions of another hot topic: comprehensive immigration reform.


This article was written by ASAP/ After School Activities Partnerships Communications & Development Coordinator, Victoria Bakey 

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