Recent News

August 28th, 2013


Memphis, Tennessee, August 28, 2013 — As it begins its sixth season with a new school year and a new consolidated school system, it made sense for the Memphis Urban Debate League to change its name to reflect its new environment.  The Shelby DEBATE Society is the new name for the debate league created several years ago with the goal of bringing academic policy debate programs back to the forefront as a powerful educational tool.

This name change is not just superficial. It acknowledges the program’s expansion that will now include teams from Germantown and Southwind high-schools.  “We are pleased that our program will continue to serve an expanded constituent base,” said Dwight Fryer, league director.  “We look forward to giving all school students in Shelby County the opportunity to participate in policy debate, which is arguably the most rigorous of all of the debate disciplines.”

The program will focus on the National Forensics League’s high school policy debate topic for the 2013-2014 school year.  That topic is: Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its economic engagement toward Cuba, Mexico, or Venezuela.” The first SDS tournament of the 2013-14 season, the Allstate Invitational at East High School, occurs on Saturday, September 14.  300 students from 21 area high schools will debate.

The new name also comes with a new logo shown above.  The Latin phrase below the shield translates to “The Power of Words”.

In keeping with the change in the league’s name, the Memphis Urban Debate League Advisory Board, a 501(c)(3) public charity, has adopted a new name as well.  The Shelby DEBATE Commission name change was registered with the Tennessee Department of State last week.

Appropriate changes to the program’s website will take place over the next few months.  Donations to the program may be made under either name while the changes are in process.

April 11th, 2013

Memphis High School Debaters Prep for National Tournament

Memphis, Tennessee, April 10, 2013 — On April 20-21, Memphis high school debaters Nigel Greer and Earl Johnson III from Overton High School, and Madison Inman and Wynter Haley-Scott from Middle College High School will represent the Memphis Urban Debate League (MUDL) at The Urban Debate National Championships in Washington, D.C.  These Memphis City Schools’ students won the right to represent Memphis by placing 1st and 2nd respectively in the MUDL City Championship Tournament held at Craigmont High in March.  The debaters will be accompanied by their coaches – Anne Duvall (Overton) and Marian Crooks (Middle College).

Also making the trip to the national tournament is Dwight Fryer, director of Memphis Urban Debate League.  Travel expenses have been underwritten by the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues.  The Memphis Urban Debate League is part of this association.

The tournament will be held on the campus of Georgetown University in the Edward B. Bunn, S.J. Intercultural Center.  Each team will compete in five (5) preliminary rounds of debate that start at 8 a.m. on April 20th.  Teams reaching the octo-finals will then re-convene on April 21st for a single elimination process.

While in Washington D.C., arrangements have been made for our students and coaches to visit with Senators Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander at their offices on Capitol Hill.

“This is a great opportunity for our students to meet their elected government officials” said Jim Sdoia, chairman of the MUDL Advisory Board.  “We are very appreciative of both Senators’ administrative personnel working with us to arrange these meetings to fit within our student debaters’ busy schedule.”

The Memphis Urban Debate League, which is considering a name change following the completion of the school system merger, will begin its 6th season with a summer debate camp offered free of charge to all interested middle and high school students  in the unified school district.  The 2013 Summer Debate Institute will give student debaters and coaches the tools to be prepared for next season.  The camp will be held Monday, June 24th through Friday June 28th from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. each day.  Details and registration will soon be available online at

January 31st, 2013

Black History Month Presentations of “THURGOOD” to Benefit the Memphis Urban Debate League

Memphis, Tennessee, January 23, 2013 — During Black History Month, the Memphis Urban Debate League Advisory Board will be screening the HBO Films Special Presentation of THURGOOD at various venues across Memphis. The Advisory Board has been granted special permission from both HBO and The Stevens Company for this project.

THURGOOD was filmed at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater in Washington, D.C. The one-man play stars Laurence Fishburne in his Tony-nominated performance as Thurgood Marshall, the iconic civil rights lawyer and Supreme Court Justice. THURGOOD was written by Academy Award nominee and Emmy winner George Stevens, Jr., directed by Emmy winner Michael Stevens, and executive produced by Bill Haber.

The critically acclaimed film features Fishburne in the role of Marshall. The film’s compelling present-tense narration revisits the turning points in Marshall’s life and career. From childhood stories of his family and home life in Baltimore, to his college days at Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C., Marshall recollects his triumphs over adversity to pursue a successful career in the judicial system fighting for human rights. Establishing benchmarks in civil rights advancement, Marshall tried the historic case of Brown v. Board of Education before the Supreme Court, successfully challenging the segregation of black and white students in public schools. His achievements eventually led him to become the first African-American to serve as a Supreme Court Justice.

Please join us in this opportunity to learn more about this civil rights pioneer and champion of equal educational opportunity for all…and to support the Memphis Urban Debate League’s mission of providing Memphis high school students life-changing personal growth through competitive interscholastic debate.

FREE admission will be granted to all showings. Donations, however, will be gratefully accepted. To schedule a showing for your church, club, or other organization, please telephone the Memphis Urban Debate League Advisory Board at (901) 604-5644 or e-mail

April 30th, 2012

City Champions Prepare for National Competition

Debate stars set for D.C. square-off

Four will represent Memphis league

By Melody Gordon

The Middle College High School debate team doesn’t have a trophy case to put the 28 awards they’ve won from six tournaments, but they’ll need one if they do well at the national championships.

Varsity Division champions Nyree Smith and Wynter Scott from Middle College High and runnersup Tojuan Reed and Rakesha Gray from Ridgeway High will represent Memphis at the Urban Debate National Championship in Washington on April 12-15.

The four debaters defeated teams from 19 Memphis City Schools in a two-day tournament in early March. At the nationals they could face teams from as many as 19 major cities.

For Memphis Urban Debate League director Dwight Fryer, going to nationals shows how debate positively affects the community.

“This whole UDL (Urban Debate League) movement began 10 to 15 years ago and it continues to expand,” said Fryer. “Our league has had a 100 percent graduation rate in the Memphis market. We know it works.”

Across the country there are 7,000 debaters in 500 high schools, according to the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues. Finalist Scott, who is in her second year on the team and is its vice president, said the team hadn’t gotten to go to nationals because it finished third at the City Championships.

“Ever since me and my debate partner found out that we will be competing at a national level, we have been working nonstop in preparation,” said Scott, 15, a sophomore.

Competitive debate was reintroduced to Memphis City Schools in 2008. Fryer says the Memphis Urban Debate League has since flourished and he has seen it change students’ lives.

Reed, a senior, has competed with the Ridgeway High debate team for three years, but this is his first trip to nationals, too. Debating for him is “a way to express myself without having to use violence.”

“I can use my words and not have to physically do anything. It’s just a good thing for everyone in general,” said Reed, who describes his debate style as “passionate.”

Fryer says Reed has “transformed” since joining debate.

“One of the most fun things about it is to watch the students grow. They handle themselves better through each competition,” said Fryer. “You can literally watch the growth across the debate season.”

Fryer recalls an emotional moment last year when a special education student overcame a speech impediment to win the Best Speaker award.

“We don’t choose the students, they choose us,” said Fryer. “We’ve never turned a student away.”

Fryer said that urban debate leagues in Atlanta, Boston, the San Francisco-Bay Area and Chicago, for example, compete across school systems. He wants to involve more suburban schools in competition with city schools.

Scott says it’s rewarding and time consuming.

“There have been many nights where I’ve found myself staying up all night researching, studying, and highlighting,” she said.

June 28th, 2011

Assisi Foundation of Memphis, Inc. Approves Renewable Grant for the Memphis Urban Debate League

Memphis, Tennessee, June 16, 2011 – The Memphis Urban Debate League Advisory Board has been awarded a renewable grant by the Assisi Foundation of Memphis, Inc..  The initial amount of the grant for FY 2011-2012 is $71,000.

The Memphis Urban Debate League, launched in July 2008, currently enjoys participation by students and teachers from 21 Memphis City Schools high schools and 2 charter schools also located in Memphis.  “We were pleased to be able to introduce and grow this rigorous academic sport in the Memphis City Schools, and we are very appreciative of the Assisi Foundation of Memphis for providing us with their financial support,” said Jim Sdoia, president of the Memphis Urban Debate League Advisory Board.

The Memphis Urban Debate League is open to all students at any of the 21 MCS high schools participating in the program.  The program plans to add at least 2 more MCS high schools for the 2011-2012 school year.  Memphis Urban Debate League participants have been documented to show higher average ACT scores than their non-debating peers. “Debate can be life-changing for a young person—especially from an inner city school,” said Dwight Fryer, league director.

The Advisory Board will need to raise an additional $25,000 from new donors in order to take advantage of a $50,000 renewal for the 2012-2013 school year and an additional $50,000 from new donors to take advantage of a $26,000 renewal for the 2013-2014 school year.  Interested donors can learn more about the program and can make donations by visiting the Memphis Debate website:

The initial grant award will be used to fully fund several of our program components for this year.  One such program is the Memphis Urban Debate League Summer Debate Institute scheduled for July 18-22 at the University of Memphis.  That program is offered free of charge to all MCS high school students who have an interest in debating in the fall.  The program will run from 9:00AM to 3:00PM daily and lunch will be provided. Details are available on our website.

May 10th, 2011

Mitchell High Debater Wins One of 10 Scholarships to Wake Forest University’s Ben Franklin Transatlantic Fellows Summer Institute

Memphis, Tennessee, May 7, 2011 – The Memphis Urban Debate League (MUDL) announces that Justin Pearson, a varsity debater at Mitchell High School, was among 60 students worldwide to be accepted to the Ben Franklin Transatlantic Fellows Summer Institute ( and one of only 10 from the US to be awarded a scholarship for the program.  The U.S. Fellows will join about 50 Fellows on the Wake Forest campus for a month-long Institute. The international Fellows are from over 30 countries ranging from Armenia to Iceland, Denmark to Kosovo, Malta to Lithuania. Participants will arrive at WFU on July 2 and depart on July 29, 2011.

The Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellows Initiative offers opportunities designed to foster relationships among youth from Europeans and American in order to advance links and awareness of shared values, encounter principles of freedom and cooperation as challenges of the global 21st Century. Inspiring the Institute is American statesman and diplomat, Benjamin Franklin, who prized religious tolerance over intolerance, social mobility over class privilege, and was a firm believer in free speech.

Institute events include classes on: Citizenship, Comparative Constitutionalism, Documentary Production and Theory, New Media, Public Advocacy which will be taught by Wake Forest and visiting faculty. A seven day educational trip to Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, PA, including a visit to the State Department, The Washington Center and several sites including the Newseum in DC and the Constitution Center in Philadelphia is also planned. Civic engagement activities will include local community service projects and workshops on public advocacy. Cultural activities include an International Dinner, visits to places of worship and other local sites.

“We are very proud of Justin and the entire Mitchell High debate squad,” said Jim Sdoia, president of the Memphis Urban Debate League Advisory Board.  “In their first year of competition, under the leadership of their coach, Mr. Robert Schueller, Justin and his teammate, Binta Fall, advanced from JV to Varsity and were Semi-Finalists in the City Championships.”

May 4th, 2011

Memphis Urban Debate League to Host “Dinner for Debate” at Two Jason’s Deli Locations

Memphis, Tennessee, May 4, 2011 – The Memphis Urban Debate League (MUDL) announces its first Dinner for Debate event on Monday, May 9 from 4:00 to 9:00 PM.  MUDL will greet guests at two Jason’s Deli stores (Poplar and Highland – 3473 Poplar Avenue, 901-324-3181 and Park and Ridgeway -1199 Ridgeway Road, 901-685-3333).  The Friends of Memphis Debate (FMD) will meet at the Poplar restaurant for its kickoff gathering, fun, and discussion of the future of Memphis Debate.

“We are building a debate community in the Memphis area that can support students in their academic and life-skills growth pursuits,” said Dwight Fryer, League Director.  “MUDL provides tremendous opportunities for students to develop life-changing personal growth through competitive interscholastic debate.  Our first Dinner for Debate event extends our reach across the Memphis area community to share in the completion of our mission by donating time and funds.  You don’t want to miss the opportunity to enjoy real food and fun for the wonderful cause of academic sport.”

FMD will spearhead MUDL fundraising, volunteer, student, and judge recruiting. This group will also be an extension of MUDL marketing and recruiting and a source for future advisory board members.  Ten percent of dine-in or take-out food purchases will benefit MUDL.

The Memphis Urban Debate League Advisory Board is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization responsible for the strategic planning, volunteer and paid staff coordination, advocacy, supplemental fundraising and deployment of university technical expertise for the Memphis Urban Debate League (MUDL).  Currently MUDL is active in 21 Memphis City High Schools and 2 Charter High Schools.  Over 270 student debaters compete in the program at two levels, Junior Varsity and Varsity.

Jason’s Deli began making sandwiches and history in 1976, when Joe Tortorice, Jr. opened the first deli at Gateway Shopping City in Beaumont, Texas. There are currently 223 family-friendly deli restaurants in 28 states, including three in Memphis. Jason’s specialty is food for all tastes and catering for all occasions.  Jason’s Deli was one of the nation’s first restaurant groups to eliminate artificial trans fats from its menu.  Today the menu is also free of MSG, artificial colors and dyes, and high fructose corn syrup – except for some fountain drinks.  Beyond classic deli sandwiches, guest favorites include the all-you-can-eat salad bar, New Orleans muffalettas and subs, 12 kids meals and free ice cream.

Past-recipient of the Nation’s Restaurant News’ Golden Chain award and Restaurant & Institution’s Consumer Choice in Chains, Jason’s was recently honored as the #1 family restaurant chain in America by Parents magazine.

April 26th, 2011

Memphis Urban Debate League Announces Summer Debate Institute

The University of Memphis to Host

Memphis, Tennessee, April 24, 2011  – The Memphis Urban Debate League (MUDL) announces it is holding a summer policy debate institute at the University of Memphis.  This program is being offered free of charge to any student who will be attending an MCS High School in the fall.  Non-MCS students may also attend for a fee of $300. The program will be held the week of July 18-22 in the Theatre and Communications Building and the Psychology Building Auditorium on the University of Memphis campus.

The program will be staffed by a group of debate coaches and college debaters from well known universities across the country.  The program will run from 8:30AM to 5:00PM daily.

“During the program we will prepare the students to debate the national high-school policy debate topic for 2011-2012 which is: Resolved: The United States federal government should substantially increase its exploration and/or development of space beyond the Earth’s mesosphere,” said Dwight Fryer, League Director.  “We will not only provide instruction in research, writing, note taking, diction, analysis, critical thinking, planning, and teamwork, but we will also provide copies of core files and supplies to help the debaters get off to a great start.”

Pre-registration is required and students and their parents/guardians must complete the required registration and medical/emergency forms.  These forms and additional information are now available on the MUDL website:

March 20th, 2011

Congressman Cohen to Address MCS Debaters at City Championship

Memphis, Tennessee, March 18, 2011 — Congressman Steve Cohen will address the Memphis City Schools’ student debaters on Saturday, March 26 during the awards luncheon at Christian Brothers University.

Congressman Cohen will speak about education and critical thinking and how these skills help break the cycle of poverty, a major concern in our community. He will also touch on the positive impacts that debate has on educational outcomes in urban school districts.

Absent from Memphis City Schools for almost 40 years, competitive policy debate returned in 2008 with the formation of the Memphis Urban Debate League. Debate teams from 23 Memphis City high schools have competed in 5 tournaments held throughout this school year. This third season culminates with the City Championship Tournament.

The City Championship Tournament begins Friday afternoon and will continue through Saturday evening. Following the preliminary and elimination rounds, the Championship Debate will occur on Saturday evening at 6:45PM in Buckman Hall.

All debate rounds are open to the public. The public should stop by the Judges’ table in Buckman Hall to locate the debate they would like to observe.

Participating MCS high schools include:  BTW, Carver, Craigmont, East, Fairley, Frayser, Kingsbury, MASE, Memphis Health Careers, Manassas, Middle College, Mitchell, Oakhaven, Overton, Raleigh-Egypt, Ridgeway, Sheffield, Soulsville Charter, SW Prep, Trezevant, Westwood, Whitehaven, and Wooddale.

February 16th, 2011

MUDL Selected as Finalist for Best New League Award

Memphis, TN, February 10, 2011 - The National Association for Urban Debate Leagues (NAUDL) has selected the Memphis Urban Debate League as one of three finalists for the Best New League award, to be announced in April at the 2011 Urban Debate National Championship in New York City.  The NAUDL created the Best New League award to celebrate the accomplishments of the 2007-2010 Expansion Plan and the successful efforts of local leagues to expand debate opportunities.

The winner of the Best New League award exemplifies these efforts by (1) achieving a high level of student engagement, (2) maintaining rigorous competition standards, (3) working in partnership with the school district, (4) using data to drive performance and programming and (5) earning the respect of their peers.