ASAP's 3rd Annual Summer Debate Academy

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8 of the 43 Summer Debate Academy Students.  Starting from top-left: Anthony, Jahmeer, Maliek, Sydney, Tatyana, Ciani, Yari, and Baahij

Every kid is unique, but most have at least one thing in common: they like to argue!  For kids in Philadelphia that really love to argue, ASAP Debate offers a unique opportunity to practice speaking in public and defending their opinions.

The 3rd annual ASAP Summer Debate Academy took place from Monday, July 25th to Friday August 5th at George Washington Carver High School of Engineering and Science. Over the course of 10 five-hour days, the Academy engaged 43 students (grades 7-12) from all around the city.  They represented twenty-nine different traditional public, public charter and independent schools.  Four coaches from the city’s top middle and high school debate clubs in the city served as the camp’s lead instructors, and they were supported by four teaching assistants – all recent alumni of ASAP’s Philadelphia Scholastic Debate League (PSDL).  Together, our tremendous instructors and teaching assistants taught the students the necessary skills and structure of Public Forum Debate. 

By the end of the two weeks, I was able to meet all of the students and had the opportunity to interview eight of them individually.  Many, I found, were drawn to debate by their love of argument.

Eighth grader Maliek commented, “I always have loose debates, but never, like, constructed.”  The “constructed” form of debate was exactly what Maliek intended to learn at the Academy.  Outside of instruction, he had a space to exhibit his knack for argument; during instruction, he was developing his debate techniques and etiquette: “It’s formal, so I can’t jump in and butt anybody out, so I learned to just wait my turn.” 

The other students could certainly relate to Maliek’s affinity for argument.  Seventh grader Jahmeer recalled that “at my school, they have clubs, and there was a debate club that everyone said I would be good for, because I like to argue.  So I tried out, and I liked it.”  Eighth grader Tatyana also said, “I like to argue,” and added that, “debate helps me professionally argue.”

Eighth grader Sydney was pleased with the structure of Public Forum Debate.  She said, “I like it.  It’s a new experience.  I didn’t think that debate would be this way.  I thought, you know, somebody would give you an issue, and y’all argue about it.  I didn’t know there was a pro and a con side and that there were speeches involved.  I didn’t know you had to have actual facts.  It was nice to learn something new… it’s more active.  It requires more work.”

One of the main ways that students learn to formally argue is by developing their notetaking skills – what debaters call “flowing.”  Our teachers led instruction through the basics of flowing, and then the teaching assistants performed a demonstration debate.  The students practiced their flowing during the demo and discussed what the exercise had taught them.  Many students, like 8th grader Ciani, saw the benefits of learning better notetaking skills: “Now I know how to organize.  If I’m writing an essay, I can organize it a certain way – like how a debate speech would go.”  The students were well aware that these skills would benefit them beyond debate competitions.

After covering flowing technique, the students were introduced to the Summer Debate Academy’s main topic: whether or not the system of presidential primary elections is contrary to American democratic values. Students began preparing both pro and con responses.  At the end of the two weeks, the camp would host a tournament on the topic.

ASAP organized three informative field trips to help the students learn more about the primary electoral process and the various definitions of American democratic values.  The camp ran concurrent to the 2016 Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, so ASAP arranged to bring the students to the DNC Women’s Caucus and Hillary Clinton’s rally at Temple University.  Campers had exposure to not only supporters of the DNC but also protestors of the American primary system, many of whom were expressing opinions campers would later feature in their pro-side contentions.  For historical background on American elections, the students also visited the National Constitution Center.  The visit included tours of the main and special exhibits, as well as a viewing of Freedom Rising, the multi-media performance exploring the definition of freedom throughout American history.

For many campers, the field trips added another exciting dimension to the Academy and provided real world context to their study of the primary process.  Ninth grader Yari commented: “The field trips I thought were amazing.  To start off with going to the DNC – just being there was an amazing experience.  It helps us students who don’t have the chance to do that on our own or with our families.  It’s given us the chance to see the outside world and how the election really is.  It was amazing.”  She also noted how fun and educational the exhibits at the Constitution Center were: “We played trivia games, we participated in many cool activities, we watched Freedom Rising, which opened up my mind a bit more about our history and how it has progressed over the years.  I think the field trips have been really helpful.”

Throughout the second week, instructors helped the students prepare for the camp’s tournament on the primary election topic.  This began with pairing the students based on complementary debating styles, personalities, and skill levels.  Each pair researched independently – with occasional guidance from instructors – to collect evidence and develop pro and con arguments.  On the final two days of camp, the pairs competed in a tournament.

The Academy’s culminating tournament helped the students see the progress they had made over the previous eight days.  Even those who were confident debaters prior to the camp, like seventh grader Baahij Arthur, recognized their own improvement: “I’m good at communicating, but I’m learning more communicating skills, social skills – learning how to project my voice and to have good posture when I’m standing or sitting, how to speak correctly, and to just be yourself when you’re doing debate.”

Sydney commented that “[debate] definitely develops public speaking skills, because you have to present to the judges your speeches, and it also teaches you how to compromise with people.”  Competing in pairs allowed the students to develop their teamwork skills.

By the end of the tournament, students were feeling confident and ready to compete again.  Many were eager to begin debating in the next season of the Philadelphia Scholastic Debate League, including Yari: “Debate helps in a lot of ways: raising self-confidence; learning how to think critically; thinking faster on your feet…With this Debate Academy, I’ve learned to not stutter as much, I’ve felt better, I’ve felt more prepared for the upcoming debate year.”  For those just starting debate, like eighth grader Anthony, the new season meant a chance to try out debate at their school’s club.  More experienced debaters, like Yari and several others, established themselves at the Academy as emerging leaders of their debate teams.  A few, like Maliek, were even inspired to start brand new ASAP Debate clubs at their schools!

To kick off this season of the Philadelphia Scholastic Debate League, ASAP will be hosting a Demonstration Debate on October 26th, from 3:30-4:45pm, at Central High School.  The city’s top high school debaters will put their skills on display and examine the topic of standardized testing.  We hope to see you there!


This article was written by ASAP/ After school Activities Partnerships' Strategic Impact Coordinator, RJ Tischler

2016 Debate Demonstration

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On Wednesday, October 26, top high school debaters will present a topic from the previous debate season, to show new debaters the layout of a Public Forum Debate round. The demonstration will be located at Central High School, 1700 W. Olney Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19141, at 3:30 PM. The resolution is, "On balance, standardized testing is beneficial to K-12 education in the United States." 

After the match, veteran coaches and judges will give the group some tips on what was done well and what could be improved. Middle and high school debate teams are welcome to attend, in addition to families and faculty. ASAP Debate is one of the largest urban debate leagues in the country; this year hundreds of students embraced the opportunity and chose to spend their after school hours preparing arguments for debate competition. Debate clubs extend beyond the confines of a classroom, ultimately shaping and preparing youth to be tomorrow's generation of informed leaders.

For more information on this event, or to register, please contact Sara Morningstar at 215-545-2727 ext. 10.

2016 ASAP Directory Release

2016 ASAP Directory Release

Wednesday, September 14, 2016, ASAP & The Philadelphia Daily News, are releasing the 2016-17 Directory of Philadelphia after school programs. ASAP staff and volunteers will be distributing free copies of the directory at 15th & Market St., at 8:00 A.M.

After school is not just a time when kids get to BE themselves – it's a time they get to BECOME themselves through enriching experiences that develop important skills, foster positive relationships and broaden horizons. This year's ASAP Directory features more than 1,000 site listings and almost every activity imaginable to keep kids safe and engaged after school.

 Following the release of the 2016 ASAP Directory in the Philadelphia Daily News, additional copies will be sent to all city schools, libraries, recreation centers and offices of elected officials. We encourage all readers to share the ASAP Directory with parents, caregivers and youth workers so that together we can create a safer, healthier and smarter city for our children, one after school program at a time.

Thanks to a partnership with the Mayor's Commission on Literacy, city residents without home internet access can find a shortcut to the ASAP Directory on the desktop of computers at KEYSPOT locations throughout the city.

In addition, with the support of ASAP's friends and partners, the Philadelphia Daily News, Philadelphia Media Network, Citizens Bank, NBCUniversal, Lenfest Foundation, the Horner Foundation and the City of Philadelphia's Department of Human Services, the Directory gets bigger and more useful each year.

For More Information:
Please Contact Paul Carroll
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 215-545-2727 ext. 11

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ASAP Chess at State Championships!

Thanks to the generous support of the Lindy Family, ASAP sponsored more than 90 Philadelphia chess students to the 2016 Pennsylvania State Championships in Lancaster, PA for the weekend of March 4th -6th. The PA State Championships is an exciting opportunity and culminating event for the chess students who have been active in ASAP's Philadelphia Scholastic Chess League and Saturday Tournaments. Many of Philadelphia's young chess aficionados took home trophies over the stiff competition of more than 850 kids from across the state.

Philadelphia defended its title as a powerhouse of scholastic chess with J. R. Masterman sweeping the championship at the elementary, middle and high school level! Congratulations to the state champions!

The state championships feature a variety of competitions throughout the weekend for students of all ages and skill levels. Many teams who honed their chess tactics in ASAP's chess league were at their best at states. Some notable winners include:

Enon Connected Pawns won 2nd place club team in the K-6th grade (rated under 1000 section)

In the 7th grade -12th grade (rated under 1000 section) there were several Philly wins:

• Central High School won 2nd place school team
• Minor Threats Chess Club won 2nd place club team
• Dark Knight won 3rd place club team


Individual wins:


Quick Chess Tournament:  Pernell Jordan, Minor Threats Chess Club, 1st place overall in his section. Tahvon Hughes and Bysir Fripps, Minor Threats Chess Club, tied 5th place overall in their section.


K-6th grade (rated under 1000 section)


  *   Armani Brown, Lenfest Center Chess Club, 2nd place unrated

  *   Patrick Ready, J.R. Masterman School, 1st place u700

  *   Moses Bennett, Enon Connected Pawns, 7th place overall

  *   Queron Hope, Enon Connected Pawns, 6th place overall


 K-6th grade (open section)


  *   Harrison Sanford, J.R. Masterman School, 3rd place overall


K-8th grade (open section)


  *   Edward Brown, J.R. Masterman School, 6th place overall

  *   Manus Narula, J.R. Masterman School, 2nd place overall

  *   Ryo Lindsay, J.R. Masterman School, 1st place U1400


 7th grade -12th grade (rated under 1000 section)


  *   Linda Zhang, Academy at Palumbo, 9th place overall

  *   Shamiyah Boozer, Carver Engineering and Science, 8th place overall

  *   Minor Threats Chess Club, 2nd place club team

  *   Carver Engineering and Science, 6th place school team

  *   Madison Ford McKnight, Dark Knights, tied 1st place U800


7th grade -12th grade (rated under 1300 section)


  *   Sammy Tran, Central High School, 1st place U1100

  *   Elijah Rowe, Central High School, tied 10th place overall

  *   Pernell Jordan, Minor Threats Chess Club, tied 10th place overall

  *   Tyjon Conway, Dark Knights Chess Club, tied 10th place overall

  *   Johnny Freeman, Minor Threats Chess Club, tied 5th place overall

    *  Jeffrey Kunnel of Central High School won 2nd place overall

  *   Tyjon Conway, Dark Knights, tied 10th place overall


 K-12th grade (open section)


  *   Shira Moolten, J.R. Masterman School, tied 10th place overall

  *   Josh Caiman Hernandez, J.R. Masterman School, 8th place overall

  *   Andrew Dang, Academy at Palumbo, 1st place U1400


Book Fair!

Annoucing the March 2016 Barnes & Noble Book Fair!

For the whole month of March, every item you purchase at Barnes & Noble Rittenhouse (1805 Walnut St.) can benefit ASAP's students! With your purchase at Barnes & Noble Rittenhouse, up to 20% of the profits will be given to ASAP's programs at no extra cost to you.

Buy your books today! During store checkout, simply say: "I'm supporting the Philly ASAP Bookfair" and up to 20% of your proceeds will go towards ASAP.


Can't make it to Rittenhouse?! You can still show your support by shopping online in March! For every item that is purchased online at Barnes & Noble on behalf of ASAP, Barnes & Noble contributes 10% of the purchase price to ASAP.  

Click on the link below to shop, and make sure to enter ASAP’s Bookfair ID listed below during checkout to ensure ASAP receives credit!
Bookfair ID: 11824489
Don't forget: Barnes & Noble offers NOOK e-readers, books, music, DVDs, educational toys, games and much more.




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After School Activities Partnerships
1520 Locust Street, Suite 1104
Philadelphia, PA 19102
P: 215.545.2727 | F: 215. 545.3054
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