Baltimore High School Students, National Debate Tournament

2 Baltimore High School Students Secure Historic Win At National Debate Tournament

Nevaeh Rita Sencion and Saidah Ervin emerged triumphant by a single vote over the country's top-ranked high school policy debate team.

Over Memorial Day weekend, high schoolers Nevaeh Rita Sencion and Saidah Ervin made history by becoming the first African American women’s debate team to clinch victory at the prestigious National Catholic Forensics League’s Grand National Tournament in Chicago.

The students, members of Baltimore City College High School’s policy debate team, engaged in a grueling competition, participating in five two-hour debates each day for two consecutive days, pitting their skills against some of the nation’s top debate teams.

According to WMAR-2 News, the dynamic duo emerged triumphant by a single vote over the country’s top-ranked high school policy debate team, arguing that the “United States federal government should substantially increase fiscal redistribution by providing a federal jobs guarantee, increasing Social Security, and/or providing a basic income.” Months of meticulous preparation, including crafting speeches imbued with poetic elements, paved the way for their success.

Ervin expressed her elation, stating, “…we knew we had it in us, but like being able to hear in front of a room that big and hearing all the cheers for us is a really, really big feeling.”

Sencion and Ervin’s achievement holds profound significance as they sought to represent inner-city students in Baltimore and Black women debaters. “We have the very unique responsibility –- and almost indebtedness -– to other Black debaters, other Black programs, the legacy of Black debate that’s come before us that has opened the doors for us to be able to continue to advocate for ourselves, for our communities,” Sencion said.

Under the guidance of BCC’s Speech and Debate Director Patrick Daniels, who has led the team for two decades, the duo ascended to the pinnacle of success, shattering traditional perceptions of debate as an exclusively white, male-dominated activity. Daniels envisions their triumph as a catalyst for change and an inspiration for future generations.

After graduation next week, Sencion and Ervin plan to continue their debate careers in college, with Sencion attending Wake Forest University on a debate scholarship and Ervin heading to the University of Kentucky as a leadership scholar. They also intend to return to their high school alma mater to coach and judge the next generation of debaters.

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