At AF Brooklyn High, Scholars Excel in Both Latin and DebateCategory: News, Home
Achievement First Brooklyn High School scholars won several prestigious awards in both Latin and debate competitions this year. American Literature and Latin teacher Michael DiColandrea—who served as adviser to the Debate Team and the Latin Club—explains his scholars’ successes.
1. How does participation in the Debate Team and Latin Club contribute to scholars’ overall learning experience at AF Brooklyn High School?
Not many schools offer Latin these days, and I think that’s a shame. The real meat of Latin pays dividends in improving English grammar and vocabulary. We repeatedly diagram sentences and define and apply SAT-level cognates from our vocabulary words, which really sets the scholars up for success. In terms of debate, the scholars are constantly researching, analyzing, writing and defending cases, asking critical questions during cross examination, evaluating opponents’ arguments and articulating rebuttals. Debate is probably the most academically rigorous extracurricular activity out there.
2. How do the scholars prepare for competition?
Members of the Latin Club participate in trivia competitions known as Certamen contests. The scholars constantly review practice Certamen questions. They also teach themselves more history, culture and mythology by reading review packets and books and by quizzing each other. For debate, we practice by brainstorming, writing, revising cases and scrimmaging.
3. What kind of contests did the scholars compete in, and how did their skills progress throughout the year?
In Latin Club, the scholars competed at Yale, Harvard and at Townsend Harris High School. The debate team mostly competed at Regis High School on Friday evenings. There, they competed against Hunter College High School, Regis and other private schools.
4. What prestigious awards did AF Brooklyn High School win for Latin and debate this year?
In Latin, our proudest moment was placing above many strong teams at the New York City Latin Certamen. We placed second in the competition, losing to Townsend Harris in the finals. In debate, we were most proud of winning second and fourth place at our first policy debate tournament, the NYC Urban Debate League Early Bird Tournament. Earlier in the year, two brand-new members of the debate team scored perfect speaking points against two experienced Regis debaters.
5. What will you most remember about this year’s competitions? What most stood out to you as an educator?
There were so many great moments, it is hard to choose. There was the time that the Latin question was a Latin command that the students had to follow. No one in the whole room had a guess, until Nalysia confidently stood up, opened the door, and sat back down, earning her team a place in the finals. Another time, the question, “What is a cognate for ‘bellum’ that means ‘the time period before a war’” stumped all 12 players in the room until Shawn calmly buzzed in and offered “antebellum,” an SAT word he’d studied in SAT class. Of course, there was the time when, after an intense weekend of competing at Harvard, the scholars decided that while they were inside the Harvard gift shop, they’d record a video of themselves singing and dancing to a Latin vocabulary song. There was so much teamwork, so much positive energy and so much love of learning. It’s been great to watch and I’m psyched for next year!
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