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Coming of Age in Philadelphia: High School Students Debate Their Future

October 29, 2013—

Student Debaters

Parkway West High School:  Fredrique Bingley and Jerron Corley

Debate Coach:  Ardeth Gilmore

Fredrique is a senior at Parkway West High School, and what he enjoys the most about debating is arguing about current and relevant topics.  His interests outside of the debate team include running his own business and hanging out with his friends.  His plans after high school are to go to college and major in Economics and Human Resource Management.

Jerron is a senior at Parkway West High School, and what he enjoys the most about debating is having the opportunity to explore different topics, and the enjoys the competition element of debating as well.  His interests outside of the debate team include poetry, chess, and student government.  His plan after high school is to attend a four-year college, major in Communication and minor in Journalism.  He is uncertain about this career plans.

Olney Charter High School:  Madjyna Marcelin and Jenny Rosemond

Madjyna is a junior at Olney Charter High School, and what she enjoys the most about debating is the fact that the debater’s argument has to be supported by specific facts.  It is not something s/he can just state, but it has to have backup.  Outside of the debate team she is interested in Business Industry.  Her plan after high school is to go to college.

Jenny is a junior at Olney Charter High School, and what she enjoys the most about debating is proving the other side wrong.  Outside of the debate team she enjoys is singing and writing.  Her plans after high school are to go to college and get a Bachelor’s degree, and then attend law school to learn about becoming a corporate lawyer.

Debate Coach:  Dan LaSalle


Featured Speaker:  Dr. Michael Nakkula’s teaching and research focus on the development of resilience and the promotion of possibility development among low-income children and youth. He is particularly interested in the integration of counseling, mentoring, and educational processes in urban schools to create contexts that allow students to thrive in school and during their transition to higher education and career opportunities. Dr. Nakkula works with many national organizations to develop applied research strategies that promote the study of developmental and educational initiatives in support of optimal youth development.


Debate Moderator:  Meg Hess-Homeier grew up in Missoula, Montana before moving to Philadelphia after high school to do a year of service with City Year Greater Philadelphia.  After working with 6th grade students at Harding Middle School, Meg decided to pursue a career in urban education.  She then attended the University of Pennsylvania where she earned a degree in Urban Studies magna cum laude and with honors in 2011.  While at Penn she worked as the program coordinator for the Netter Center’s College Access and Career Readiness program.   She also worked as the Workforce Development Intern at the University City District. She now works as the Debate and Drama Coordinator at the After School Activities Partnerships, organizing a debate league that serves over 300 Philadelphia students annually.


Debate Judge:  Tiffany Tavarez is the Corporate Contributions Manager for PECO. In this position, she manages approximately $2.3 million of charitable contributions to over 100 organizations in the Philadelphia area. She most recently worked with the Comcast Corporation’s Community Investment team managing key sponsorships and partnerships with several key community organizations; including the National Urban League, City Year, Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Barnes Foundation. She supported the development of Comcast | NBCUniversal’s  first co-branded Corporate Social Responsibility report and the launch of Somos Comcástico, Comcast’s Latino employee affinity group.


Debate Judge:  Dr. James D. Hebert is a clinical psychologist specializing in cognitive-behavior therapy (including newer mindfulness and acceptance-based models of behavior therapy), mood and anxiety disorders, teletherapy, the distinction between science and pseudoscience in psychology and related fields, and the promotion of evidence-based practice in mental health. He is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Anxiety Treatment and Research Program at Drexel University. He also served for several years as Director of Clinical Training of Drexel’s Ph.D. Program in Clinical Psychology. From 2008-2009 he served as Interim Head of the Department of Biology at Drexel.


Debate Judge:  Susan B. Smith grew up in Massachusetts, graduated from the University of Rhode Island in child development and received a Masters degree in elementary education from Lesley College (now University) in Cambridge MA.  She taught first grade in Cambridge and Concord, MA and first grade in Hamden and New Haven CT.  She moved to Philadelphia in 1970 and was a stay at home mom for three sons until the youngest was in 6th grade.  During those years, she was a volunteer in the Philadelphia and Radnor School districts.  From 1989 to 1994, she taught in a program at Radnor High School for school avoidant students.  While at the high school, she developed the Overbrook-Radnor Connection. It was to introduce students through music, art, and social studies.  The sponsor for this program was her husband’s law firm Reed Smith.  Since leaving teaching, she has devoted herself to the League of Women Voters and organizations to prevent gun violence.