Proving What is Possible: Democracy Prep Speech and Debate Team Wins Big

The Speech and Debate National Qualifiers for the New York City Regionals proved historic for Democracy Prep this year, with 20 wins and four first place winners. Ten DP scholars qualified to represent New York City in two national tournaments: The Catholic Forensic League (CFL) Nationals in Washington, D.C., and the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) Nationals in Ft. Lauderdale. Only two students from each event are allowed to go to nationals to compete as a representative because New York City is so large and competitive for speech and debate.

Unlike other extra-curricular activities, speech and debate are year-round. The Democracy Prep team begins preparation for the year the first day of summer break with a weeklong boot camp. Tournaments occur during the weekends throughout the year, and nationals take place during the last week of school.

The 22 scholars on the Democracy Prep Varsity Speech and Debate Team dedicate nearly all of their time outside of school to the team. They attend after-school practice three days a week for a total of 12 hours.

“It really simulates so much of what one has to be able to endure while they are pursuing professional avenues,” Speech and Debate Master Coach Luis Cardenas said. “It’s actually a real workday.”

Sarah Rosenberg and Luis Cardenas, the DP speech and debate master coaches, and their assistant Norberto Troncoso intentionally designed the DP program to train scholars to achieve at the highest levels of speech and debate.

“It’s not just about being excellent, but it’s about being excellent in the top one percent of the country,” Luis said. “There’s a different mindset involved.”

For Luis, this is important because society often assumes that scholars from Harlem and the Bronx cannot successfully compete against students who attend specialized or private schools.

“The biggest success for us has been understanding how to push a child to the highest level,” Luis said. “They have to commit their life to this. There’s no other way around it. It’s commit your life to it, but then excel and succeed on such a high level and prove that it’s not about where you come from. It’s about your application of the process, and the coaches, and how you put a team together.”

Luis wants to encourage teachers and staff members to attend a speech and debate tournament to see the team’s hard work as a judge, supervisor, or a spectator.

“When teachers come and support scholars outside of the classroom, it is so relevant to their relationships with scholars inside the classroom. Teachers see their scholars outside of their everyday norm, and scholars see their teacher during their free time.”

The rigorous expectations of the DP Speech and Debate Team condition the scholars to be highly disciplined when facing all sorts of challenges, whether at school, home, in college, or professionally.

“Speech and debate is about accepting the hard work involved in being excellent and embracing it,” Luis said. “It’s about finding your voice and being willing to express what you need to express without allowing yourself to feel silenced for any reason.”

Below are the results of the tournament. Congratulations to all the winners.


Mavelyn Cruz & Milthon Amparo – 3rd Place Duo Interpretation (Bronx Prep) [NATIONAL QUALIFIER]

Denzel Rodriguez & Nicholas Piniero- 4th Place Duo Interpretation (Harlem High [NATIONAL QUALIFIER]

Enmanuel De La Rosa & Emmanu – 5th Place Duo Interpretation (Bronx Prep) [NATIONAL QUALIFIER]

Campbell Waters – 3rd Place Dramatic Performance (Endurance High) [NATIONAL QUALIFIER]

Ashley Morel- 6th Place Dramatic Performance (Endurance High) [NATIONAL QUALIFIER]

Genesis Gomez- 9th Place Dramatic Performance (Bronx Prep)

Adrian Tejada – Dramatic Performance (Endurance High)

Aminata Diallo – Dramatic Performance (Bronx Prep)

Tyrese Avery – 3rd Place Oral Interpretation (Endurance High) [NATIONAL QUALIFIER]

Safiatou Compaore- 10th Place Oral Interpretation (Endurance High)

Karl Sefordzi – 8th Place Oral Interpretation (Endurance High)

Mavelyn Cruz & Milthon Amparo – 1st Place Duo Interpretation (Bronx Prep) [NATIONAL QUALIFIER]

Campbell Waters and Safiatou Compaore- 2nd Place Duo Interpretation (Endurance High) [NATIONAL QUALIFIER]

Ashley Morel- 3rd Place Dramatic Performance (Endurance High) [NATIONAL QUALIFIER]

Jesus Santos- 1st Place Humorous Performance (Bronx Prep) [NATIONAL QUALIFIER]

Genesis Gomez- 2nd Place Humorous Performance (Bronx Prep) [NATIONAL QUALIFIER]

Enmanuel De Larosa- 3rd Place Humorous Performance (Bronx Prep) [NATIONAL QUALIFIER]

Adrian Tejada- 1st Place Humorous Performance (Endurance High) [NATIONAL QUALIFIER]

Tyrese Avery – 1st Place Oral Interpretation (Endurance High) [NATIONAL QUALIFIER]

Karl Sefordzi – 7th Place Dramatic Performance (Endurance High)

Stay In Touch