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Kanapaha Middle School student wins inaugural National Civics and Debate Championship

Press release from Florida Department of Education

Yesterday, Florida Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran congratulated the winners of the inaugural National Civics and Debate Championship. These students participated in a three-day competition with over 150 students and 26 teams. With exemplary performance in rigorous contests aligned with the Florida B.E.S.T. Civic Standards, students competed in the areas of Congressional Debate, Extemporaneous Debate, Impromptu Speaking, and Extemporaneous Sports Analysis. The first and only of its kind, the National Civics and Debate Championship is a critical component of the Florida Civics and Debate Initiative.

In January 2020, Governor Ron DeSantis established the Florida Civics and Debate Initiative (FCDI) in partnership with the Marcus Foundation to strengthen civic knowledge, skills, and disposition for secondary students. Since 2020, the FCDI has added over 160 debate teams in 48 Florida school districts. When the Initiative first began, Florida students could access speech and debate programs in only 11 school districts, meaning the initiative has since increased access to 37 additional districts, a 336% increase. To further support educators, the FCDI has provided civics-related professional development to 356 Florida teachers. Florida’s unparalleled commitments and investments set the pace for civics education in America, contributing to a 22 percent increase in national student speech and debate participation.

“The Florida Civics and Debate Initiative and National Civics and Debate Championship support student success through spirited competition while building a foundation for great citizens and a strengthened society,” said Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran. “The three-day contest fostered leadership, teamwork, analytical skills, and a deeper understanding of our responsibilities as Americans. That is a win-win for our schools, students, state, and our country.”

The Florida Civics Debate Initiative aims to create access and opportunities for all students to have the best civics education including curriculum, debate programs, and high-quality teachers that are catalysts for them to become great citizens who can preserve our constitutional republic for future generations. Students engaged in a well-rounded civics education and debate extracurriculars realize an increased chance of exceptional academic success, exceeding college-readiness benchmarks and leading to an almost 99 percent chance of attending college with expanded scholarship offerings.

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Participating schools receive funding to support the development of their debate teams, including funds to offset educational resources, tournament transportation coach stipends, and membership in the National Speech and Debate Association.

The program’s early onset success unequivocally demonstrates Florida’s leadership in ensuring that every child receives a world-class civics education that prepares them to be great citizens, protecting the foundation of our nation’s freedoms.

Winners of the 2021 National Civics and Debate Championship

Middle School Champion
Simon Denahan, Kanapaha Middle School, Alachua County

High School Champion
Alex Vihlan, Lake Mary Preparatory School, Seminole County

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