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City Debate Champion Wins Every Tournament in ’11-’12 School Year

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A campaign is underway to save Debate-Kansas City. Since 1998, Debate-Kansas City has provided debate tournaments and workshops for students in core neighborhood schools in the Kansas City metro area. But the Kansas City Missouri School District has cut nearly all of the money for debate from its budget, leaving champion debaters like this week's Reaching 4 Excellence Young Achiever wondering if there will be any more victories for them in this valuable learning activity.

Monica Propst admits it. She loves to talk. And that's a good thing since she has a lot of important things to say.

"She's a very creative thinker," said Terrie Miller, school librarian and debate coach at Foreign Language Academy in the Kansas City Missouri School District. "She's a very critical thinker as well."

Monica is the top talker in Miller's middle school-level debate class and after-school debate club at Foreign Language Academy where Monica just wrapped up her 8th grade year. She's been debating since 6th grade.

"Monica is definitely a leader, and she is a take-charge type of person," said Miller. "She can do it and she does it successfully."

In debate tournaments, Monica specialized in student congress, role-playing as a member of the U.S. Congress, delivering speeches and arguing bills and resolutions. She had to be ready to speak with knowledge and authority on dozens of challenging and complex national and world issues.

"It gives you the tools and the guidelines on how to do really good research and get exactly what you need out of the research to write a good paper to get your point across in a really good way," Monica said.

And Monica did student congress in a very, very good way. She was city champion, winning every tournament in which she competed in the 2011- 2012 school year in the Debate-Kansas City league. No one has ever done that in the 14 years the Debate-Kansas City organization has been fostering debate in metro area urban middle schools and high schools.

"Monica is able to both describe things at an analytical and data level and personalize them, and she does it consistently," said Gabe Cook, director of Debate-Kansas City. "She really projects well with her voice. When she starts talking, it commands attention. You can't take your eyes off of her. You can't stop listening to her because she has such poise and such strength."

But Monica's stellar debate season has ended on a sour note. The Foreign Language Academy debate team can't go to the national middle school debate tournament because the Kansas City Missouri School District no longer funds Debate-Kansas City. And school-based fund-raising fell short. The budget issue leaves people concerned that this very valuable learning activity will vanish completely from district schools.

"I think it's important for academic achievement," Cook said. "Debate doesn't teach kids what to think, it teaches them how to think."

"All of the thinking skills that work into debate, all of the writing skills, all the performing, it's one whole big package," Miller said.

"I value it a lot," said Monica. "It helps me with a lot of things I do."

Debate-Kansas City says it continues to get financial support from other urban school districts and needs to raise $40,000 to keep its program going without severe cutbacks.

To learn how you can get involved in the campaign or to pledge your support, visit savedebatekansascity.com.

FOX 4 News is Working for You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Monday on FOX 4 News at 8 a.m., every Wednesday on FOX 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on FOX 4 News at 5 p.m.

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