Since HISD first joined forces with the Houston Urban Debate League (HUDL) in 2008, thousands of students have benefitted from the partnership, which provides traditionally underserved youth with opportunities to participate in debate tournaments, educational seminars, and summer institutes.
HUDL now serves approximately 1,000 students a year from 30 district high schools and nearly a dozen middle schools. It is the fastest-growing and second-largest urban debate league in the nation, and it celebrated five years of partnership with HISD at a luncheon held Nov. 20 at the law offices of Andrews Kurth LLP.
Mayor Annise Parker served as the keynote speaker at the event, which also featured HUDL students sharing stories of how participation in competitive academic debate had transformed their lives. Jacob Lozano (Reagan HS) and Valerie Salas (Eastwood Academy) both described having a new awareness of the opportunities available to them, and a new appreciation of their ability to meet difficult challenges.
But nowhere was this more apparent than with Maria Alfaro, a member of Westbury High School’s Class of 2009. Now a senior at the University of Houston and the captain of its debate team, Alfaro said she really wasn’t planning on going to college at all before she got involved with HUDL. But after winning the city championship during her senior year, she began exploring her options more seriously, and now she will be the first person in her family to finish college. She also plans to go to law school.
HUDL is sponsored by the Houston Endowment, the Texas Bar Foundation, Andrews Kurth LLP, Boeing Corporation, the United Space Alliance, Space Services, Inc. and Valero Energy.