The Broward County Public Schools debate initiative is a partnership between local businesses and school debate programs within the county.
It was implemented during the 2012-13 school year with 15 schools participating; it now includes more than 90 schools and almost 10,000 students. Every public middle and high school, three technical colleges, 12 elementary schools, and three alternative schools in the county now have debate programs.
The initiative is grounded in research showing the positive impact participation in debate has on student achievement.
Gunster continues to lead the charge toward making the debate initiative a long-term success in Broward County by building and solidifying partnerships between the business and educational communities; creating the infrastructure for funding required to maintain the initiative, and actively participating in annual fundraising events for the initiative; soliciting participation in the form of mentors, judges and drivers; organizing clothing/office supply drives needed for low-income students who desire to participate in the debate program but do not have the means to do so; and creating enthusiasm for the initiative.
On Oct. 20, at the Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance‘s annual dinner meeting, Gunster was honored with the economic development organization’s Education Partnership Award, which award the firm shared with the city of Sunrise (for its chess initiative). George S. LeMieux, Gunster’s chairman of the board, is featured in an alliance video about the firm’s efforts and the debate initiative.
See also the related Sun Sentinel article mentioning the award: Fort Lauderdale Alliance nearly doubles job growth during year (Sun Sentinel, Oct. 21, 2016).
Also on Oct. 20, LeMieux was honored with the 2016 Hall of Fame – Community Achievement Award by the Broward Education Foundation at its Fourth Annual Distinguished Hall of Fame Awards breakfast, as a result of his efforts and leadership on the debate initiative.
Read the Coral Springs Talk article about it: Broward Education Foundation inducts newest members to Hall of Fame (Coral Springs Talk, 11/28/16).
More about the debate initiative
Speech and debate students learn research, logic, the organization of ideas, manipulation of language, assessment of audience, self-esteem, and engagement in world events.
These skills not only build better students, they build better college candidates, better employees and better citizens.
Students who participate in debate:
- increase their literacy scores by 25 percent
- increase their GPAs by 10 percent
Nearly all students who participate in debate (98 percent) graduate from high school, and 95 percent go on to attend a four-year college.
Notably, at-risk students who participate in debate increase their chance of graduating from high school by 70 percent.
Gunster initially contributed $10,000 in seed money – and continues to be a sponsor of a fundraising luncheon on behalf of the debate initiative and Broward County Public Schools.
The second such fundraising luncheon was held on Oct. 19, 2016, at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts (see photos below).
South Florida Business & Wealth wrote a profile about the initiative, including quotes from business leaders who attended the Oct. 19 luncheon. In the SFBW article, LeMieux says debate is a magic elixer; kids who do it want to win. Read the article: The ‘magic elixir’ for student success (South Florida Business & Wealth, 11/21/16).
The host committee for the fundraising luncheons is comprised of:
- George S. LeMieux, former U.S. Senator & chairman of the board at Gunster
- Laurie Rich Levinson, Broward County School Board member
- Eugene Pettis, Florida Bar Association, past president
- Michael Satz, Broward County state attorney