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York juniors discuss immigration reform at New York City debate event

Upon receiving an exclusive invitation from Newsweek and the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues (NAUDL) York International School juniors Alliton S. and Ruby O. traveled to New York City in April to help foster civil discourse among young people on a national stage. 

Two debaters on stage

As members of Mapleton’s Speech and Debate Team, Alliton and Ruby were selected to participate in Newsweek’s launch of Mightier, a new content hub opened in partnership with NAUDL and aimed at amplifying student voices through high school debate.   

Alliton and Ruby were two of only eight high schoolers invited from Denver, Silicon Valley, and Washington DC to debate pressing issues in front of Newsweek journalists and executives, at their World Trade Center Headquarters. Teams of two were divided to argue either for or against a topic, even if their debate positions were not what they personally believed. The themes they discussed included artificial intelligence, immigration, climate optimism, and affirmative action.  

“It was really important stuff, and they gave us, as teenagers, a voice to talk about these problems,” said Alliton.   

Mapleton’s duo presented different viewpoints on immigration, a subject from which they both drew personal observations. Alliton was born in Mexico and has lived in the United States since she was 8 years old. Ruby was born in the United States but spent most of her life in Mexico before moving back five years ago.  

The two said they received good feedback from the event hosts and learned a lot, such as how to compare and organize arguments and improve their rebuttals. Those are skills they plan to use against their local opponents in their final year of high school debate. They said their primary goal is to send at least one team of two debaters to a national competition, something Mapleton has accomplished only twice before.  a debater on stage

Alliton and Ruby were chosen to participate in the Mightier debate after being recognized for the quality of writing and preparation of their debate on a different topic at another event sponsored by NAUDL last October, at Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU). They said they have grown since they joined the debate team and realize the actual debating isn’t really the most important part.  

"When I started, I didn't have much confidence even speaking in front of class, but this has helped a lot, and it improved my communication skills," Ruby said.

“We learn how to advocate for ourselves, to speak clearly, and look at both points of view before making a judgment,” Alliton said. “We can definitely use this experience to connect to what we want to be when we grow up.” 

As of now, that means eventually becoming lawyers. After they graduate next year, they both plan on attending college, possibly at MSU, before pursuing law degrees. Ruby is interested in becoming either a commercial or immigration lawyer, while Alliton is most interested in cybersecurity.  

Newsweek documented the students’ experiences from the New York trip for a string of videos and a special podcast miniseries, which will soon be viewable here.