BU Debate Prof To Accompany GEAR UP Students To Washington, D.C.

Sept. 3, 2001

by Lori Scott Fogleman

Students from Waco's G.W. Carver Academy have been invited to showcase their debate skills and share their experiences in Project Democracy at the GEAR UP National Conference to be held in October in Washington, D.C.

The half dozen students, accompanied by Baylor debate professor and Project Democracy director Karla Leeper, Baylor graduate student Skye Perryman and Carver debate teacher Mary Duty, plan to leave Waco for Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Oct. 4.

On Saturday, Oct. 6, from 2 to 3:30 p.m., the students will debate the role of the federal government in education during a presentation at the Washington Hilton and Towers Hotel. The audience will be comprised of the more than 1,200 GEAR UP staff members, educators, administrators, policy makers and business and foundation leaders attending the annual GEAR UP National Conference, sponsored by the National Council for Community and Education Partnerships (NCCEP) and the U.S. Department of Education.

"The fundamental skills in a democracy are the abilities to read and understand the basic issues facing our community and our nation, to critically evaluate that information and to publicly express your views as part of an effort to make good group decisions," Leeper said. "No other activity teaches those skills as effectively as debate training."

GEAR UP Waco is a comprehensive, collaborative initiative focused on preparing at-risk students academically and socially for college. Funded by a $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, GEAR UP Waco projects and initiatives are led by seven partners, including Baylor University, Texas State Technical College, McLennan Community College, Communities in Schools/McLennan County Youth Collaboration, Waco ISD, Waco Foundation and the City of Waco.

"GEAR UP Waco serves as a community catalyst to assure an increase in students who pursue advanced and enrichment courses, pass the state exam and continue their education beyond the high school level," said Matthew Williams, GEAR UP Waco project director.

One of more than 20 GEAR UP Waco grant projects, Project Democracy is designed to institute speech and debate instruction in Waco ISD middle schools utilizing the resources and experience of Baylor's nationally prominent debate program. During the past two years of Project Democracy, Dr. Karla Leeper, herself a successful debater, national champion debate coach and current president of the American Forensics Association, has been able to provide college mentors for each school, classroom instruction for students, and on-campus college training programs for students and teachers. Project Democracy also has sponsored several public events featuring middle school students.

Williams said the promise of Project Democracy "on paper" is tremendous, but once a person sees the Carver debaters in action, the reality of the project is much more impressive.

"Watching our students demonstrate the research, writing, speaking and critical thinking skills they have learned is testament to the success of this program," he said.

Available for interviews before and after events in Washington are: student debaters from Carver Academy; Dr. Karla Leeper, Baylor communication studies professor and director of Project Democracy, at 710-6919; Skye Perryman, Baylor student coordinator for Project Democracy, Carver debate teacher Mary Duty and school principal Roxanne Bass at 757-0787; and Matthew Williams, GEAR UP project director, 710-4975.

For additional media assistance, contact Lori Scott Fogleman, director of Baylor media relations, at 710-6275, and Dale Caffey, WISD public information officer, at 755-9455. More information about the GEAR UP Waco grant can be found at http://www.gearupwaco.org.

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