Thursday, May 23, 2024

South Dallas Gilliam Debaters repeat two rounds of success in Atlanta

On Friday, March 8, 2024 at 10:00 a.m. – the Kathlyn Joy Gilliam Museum “South Dallas Gilliam Debate Team” won both rounds of competition at the Atlanta Urban Debate League Tournament (elementary competition). NOTE: Two teams of three and each team won both rounds! The tournament is sponsored each year by Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.

This would be the Dallas team’s first competition since COVID. The debate program has been in existence since 2016. Each year of participation, they have come home with winning teams. This year they continue the tradition!

The 2023-2024 debate team members are Matthew Cash Hill; Jayce Allen Dabney; Ella Grace Najm; Savannah Louise Lewis; Jackson Ellington Yates and Claudette Pounders. All of the debaters are from the South Dallas community.

(Courtesy photo)

This year the students were asked to come up with a plan to “reduce human-caused climate change.” The South Dallas Gilliam Debaters developed a campaign to get children involved in climate change.

They call it the “Get it Right On Using Light” campaign. Their plan was precise and is very easy to do. They offered suggestions such as reducing the use of electricity; keeping home and business temperatures regulated; unplugging vampire devices and using high efficient light bulbs.

This team has a range of personalities – bold; confident; determined, outspoken and quite energetic. Coaches will continue to plant the seed for success in October 2024 when they will pick up where they left off — working with this same group of bright minds. At least one new team of three will be invited to join the group in October 2024.

This season, the Museum welcomed two new coaches to work with the students. They are, Attorney Cheryl Wattley (Professor of Law at the University of North Texas Dallas) and son Andrew Wattley (Intellectual Standup Comic). The coaches bonded instantly with the students.

KJGM President and CEO, Connie Harris, comments, “This is a remarkable mother and son tag team who gave each student 100% of their time in preparing for the tournament. Such a unique pair – sharp and funny which allows the students to relate.”

The coaches offered their assistance on a volunteer basis to help broaden young minds. With their patience and genuine concern to see this group of young students succeed, they have truly made a difference. They have planted memories that will follow each debater for many years to come.

Junior coaches for this class were Amir Najm (Kathlyn Joy Gilliam Collegiate Academy); LaDarius Buckner (St. Anthony Academy); and Aleigha West (Martin Luther King Jr. Arts Academy).

All are from the South Dallas Community. Carla Ranger (retired DISD Board Trustee) also worked closely with the students in preparation for the tournament. Not to forget the amazing parents who encouraged and made sure each student showed up for some vigorous practices. We want to thank them all!, says Ms. Harris.

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