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November 16, 2022

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Hundreds of Students from Across the Nation Convened in Orlando to Compete in The Great Debate, the National Civics and Debate Championship Hosted by the Florida Civics and Debate Initiative

Orlando, Fla., November 16, 2022 – After three days of competition across three speech and debate categories, Sofia Mohring from Lake Mary Preparatory School was crowned the high school Champion and Daniella Rothberg from I-Prep Academy North was crowned the middle school Champion of The Great Debate: The National Speech and Debate Championship. These two students stood out among nearly 400 students from across the nation who competed in The Great Debate, hosted by the Florida Civics and Debate Initiative (FCDI), a program of the Florida Education Foundation and Florida Department of Education.

“Florida is leading the way in civics education. It’s our goal to strengthen the focus on civics education so that today’s students will be tomorrow’s great leaders,” said Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr. “To see all these students from across the nation demonstrate their skills and capabilities in debate was remarkable.”

The Great Debate is a triathlon-style tournament that puts students’ civic knowledge and communication skills to the ultimate test as they vie for a chance to become national Champions. While most conventional debate tournaments require students to compete in only one event, The Great Debate requires students to compete in all debate categories on each of the three days of the tournament.

“I was a part of my high school debate team, and the most important skill I learned was not public speaking. It was listening. It’s so important that we listen to advocates on both sides of an issue so that we can understand where they’re coming from,” said Kristen Soltis Anderson, national pollster, author and show host in her welcome remarks to the students Friday evening. “By engaging in civics and debate, we’re researching, we’re formulating our opinions and – through civil discourse – we’re perpetually working to form a more perfect union. Congrats to all the participants in The Great Debate and a big thanks to all coaches, judges and parents who made this possible.”

The FCDI was established by Governor Ron DeSantis in 2020 to encourage middle and high school students to engage in civic activities and elevate their civic knowledge, which has been proven to benefit student outcomes. Research shows that participating in debate can increase critical thinking skills by 44% and increase an at-risk student’s chances of graduating high school by 70%. In the past two years, the FCDI has expanded competitive debate opportunities from 59 schools in 11 school districts to 243 schools in 54 school districts, and is on pace to reach all Florida school districts this school year.

The Great Debate: The National Civics and Debate Championship is the national hallmark event of the FCDI. Since last year’s inaugural event, The Great Debate more than doubled in size expanding from 152 participants to well over 300 competitors this year. Despite Hurricane Nicole making landfall earlier in the week, the 2022 competition hosted 38 out of the 40 teams originally registered, including a school from as far as South Dakota.

“The Great Debate is beginning to shape into the event that we’ve imagined from the beginning,” said Rebecca Matthews, Board Chairman of the Florida Education Foundation. “We are thrilled to welcome students from all over the country to demonstrate their civics and debate skills here in the Sunshine State.”

The event took place at the Caribe Royale Resort and Lake Buena Vista High School in Orlando, November 11-13. Students competed in the areas of Congressional Debate, Extemporaneous Debate and Impromptu Speaking.

Congratulations to all the winners and Champions:

Middle School Division

  • Champion - Daniella Rothberg, I-Prep Academy North, Miami
  • 2nd Place - Taylor Mack, I-Prep Academy North, Miami
  • 3rd Place - Asher Licata, AD Henderson University School, Boca Raton
  • 4th Place - Joshua Kahrim, AD Henderson University School, Boca Raton
  • 5th Place - Addisyn Kostzer, Pembroke Pines Charter Middle School West, Pembroke Pines

High School Division

  • Champion - Sofia Mohring, Lake Mary Preparatory School, Lake Mary
  • 2nd Place - Bradan Lott, Lake Mary Preparatory School, Lake Mary
  • 3rd Place - Gaby Urdaneta, Lake Nona High School, Orlando
  • 4th Place - Rudi Darden, South Lake High School, Groveland
  • 5th Place - Nicholas Ostheimer, FAU High School, Boca Raton
  • 6th Place - Jolie Lehrman, FAU High School, Boca Raton
  • 7th Place - Arik Karim, A.W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts, West Palm Beach
  • 8th Place - Eva Barrett, Lake Brantley High School, Altamonte Springs
  • 9th Place - Abiah George, Aberdeen Independent, Aberdeen, South Dakota
  • 10th Place - Maya Venkatraman, Lake Nona High School, Orlando

Congressional Debate – Middle School Division

  • Champion - Asher Licata, AD Henderson University School, Boca Raton
  • 2nd Place - Michael Gomez, AD Henderson University School, Boca Raton
  • 3rd Place - Joshua Kahrim, AD Henderson University School, Boca Raton
  • 4th Place - Daniella Rothberg, I-Prep Academy North, Miami
  • 5th Place - Mia Taylor, I-Prep Academy North, Miami

Congressional Debate – High School Division

  • Champion - Rhea Thakker, Lake Mary Preparatory School, Lake Mary
  • 2nd Place - Nicholas Ostheimer, FAU High School, Boca Raton
  • 3rd Place - Camila Gimenez, Lake Nona High School, Orlando
  • 4th Place - Sofia Mohring, Lake Mary Preparatory School, Lake Mary
  • 5th Place - Kayden Greenstein, South Lake High School, Groveland

Extemporaneous Debate – Middle School Division

  • Champion - Asher Licata, AD Henderson University School, Boca Raton
  • 2nd Place - Daniella Rothberg, I-Prep Academy North, Miami
  • 3rd Place - Joshua Kahrim, AD Henderson University School, Boca Raton
  • 4th Place - Addisyn Kostzer, Pembroke Pines Charter Middle School West, Pembroke Pines
  • 5th Place - Taylor Mack, I-Prep Academy North, Miami

Extemporaneous Debate – High School Division

  • Champion - Eva Barrett, Lake Brantley High School, Altamonte Springs
  • 2nd Place - Gabriel Annis, Duncan U. Fletcher High School, Neptune Beach
  • 3rd Place - Jolie Lehrman, FAU High School, Boca Raton
  • 4th Place - Rhea Thakker, Lake Mary Preparatory School, Lake Mary
  • 5th Place - Cristina Castresana, Pompano Beach High School, Pompano Beach

Impromptu Speaking – Middle School Division

  • Champion - Daniella Rothberg, I-Prep Academy North, Miami
  • 2nd Place - Taylor Mack, I-Prep Academy North, Miami
  • 3rd Place - Asher Licata, AD Henderson University School, Boca Raton
  • 4th Place - Brady Abrams, AD Henderson University School, Boca Raton
  • 5th Place - Addisyn Kostzer, Pembroke Pines Charter Middle School West, Pembroke Pines

Impromptu Speaking – High School Division

  • Champion - Alan Munschy, Christopher Columbus High School, Miami
  • 2nd Place - Gabriel Annis, Duncan U. Fletcher High School, Neptune Beach
  • 3rd Place - Ashley Ding, Lake Nona High School, Orlando
  • 4th Place - Sofia Mohring, Lake Mary Preparatory School, Lake Mary
  • 5th Place - Abiah George, Aberdeen Independent, Aberdeen, South Dakota

View photos from the tournament here.

About The Florida Civics and Debate Initiative

Florida is leading the way in strengthening civics education in kindergarten through postsecondary schools. In 2020, the Florida Department of Education and the Florida Education Foundation established a statewide debate program that focused on civics education. The FCDI is the first of its kind to use debate specifically as a tool to enrich civics education. The FCDI continues to grow exponentially and has incredibly strong support from state leaders.

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