Blog Archives

Closing the Books on Another Successful Year with Boston Debate League

A Boston Community Leadership Academy student and a New Mission High School student debate during a Boston Debate League round.

A Boston Community Leadership Academy student and a New Mission High School student debate during a Boston Debate League round. Photo courtesy of Boston Debate League.

Though the 2013-2014 debate season is wrapping up, the fun isn’t over just yet. The Boston Debate League still has what might be two of the best events of the year on the horizon. Don’t miss a great opportunity to see the students in action and recognize their hard work this year.

(1) Celebrate the debaters at the Spring Award at the Spring Award Ceremony on Thursday, March 27th from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm. Join over 500 BPS students, parents, teachers, and BPS administrators as we celebrate a record-breaking year. Click here to learn more.

(2) The fun doesn’t end there— join Mayor Marty Walsh and Boston City Councilor Charles Yancey for the 2nd Annual Boston City Council Debate on April 1st from 5:00 pm to 7:00 pm on April 1st, 2014. This is a unique opportunity to meet your Boston City Council members and see talented BPS students engage in a riveting argument over the merits of raising the minimum wage in Massachusetts. You can find more here.

A Firsthand Look at Volunteering for the Boston Debate League

Volunteers can support the Boston public schools by serving as judges at monthly tournaments through the Boston Debate League. Photo courtesy of Boston Debate League.

Volunteers can support the Boston public schools by serving as judges at monthly tournaments through the Boston Debate League. Photo courtesy of Boston Debate League.

As Public Service Programs Coordinator at the BBA, I get a firsthand look at the great work the BBA and its volunteers do on behalf of Boston youth, veterans, and unrepresented litigants. That’s why I jumped at the opportunity to participate in a BBA Public Service Program as a Boston Debate League judge at English High School in Jamaica Plain on Friday.

While I had participated in debate during high school, it had been seven years since I had attended a debate tournament and I was not sure what to expect. When I walked into my first round, I saw two boys skateboarding in the corner and two girls chatting with each other about their weekend plans. I could barely hear the students when I asked them to introduce themselves and the teams exchanged awkward handshakes without making eye contact. The first girl who stood up to speak was so nervous that she restarted her speech three times. However, halfway through her speech the dynamic in the room completely changed. She began speaking louder and placing emphasis on her key arguments. At the same time, the two boys on the other team began furiously writing out their next speech and rustling through their folders for the evidence to counter the arguments. Both teams spent the rest of the hour long debate firing questions back and forth and discussing the pros and cons of eliminating the United States’ trade embargo on Cuba. The second round followed a similar format where the students were initially very shy and disengaged but started passionately debating the strengths and shortcomings of the Cuban healthcare system and the United States’ moral obligation to address the widespread human rights violations and political oppression in Cuba a few minutes into the round. It was clear that these students are passionate and driven and debate brought out these qualities.

As a former high school debater, I can honestly say that debate had the biggest impact on my preparation for college and professional endeavors because it helped me develop critical skills at an early age. Debate helps you improve skills, such as public speaking, research, and critical thinking, while also building confidence. Boston Debate League brings this opportunity to high school students throughout the Boston public school system who may not get this chance elsewhere.

I encourage you to see the impact of Boston Debate League for yourself by judging at an upcoming tournament. The commitment is small—just 4 hours—and you can volunteer on a Friday or Saturday depending on your schedule. Please contact me at kdangelo@bostonbar.org for more information on how to get involved.

D'Angelo_Katie

Katie D’Angelo is the Public Service Programs Coordinator at the Boston Bar Association.

BBA Releases 2013 Public Service Report

Expanding Our Reach

Beyond the Billable is excited to announce the release of the 2013 BBA Public Service Report. The report, which is titled Expanding Our Reach, focuses on the growth of many of the BBA’s public service programs over the past year. From the Marathon Monday Project to the Summer Jobs Program, it provides a comprehensive look at the impact of our programs and the partners and volunteers who help make them possible.

Click here to see how we expanded our reach.

Trained to Make a Difference – Attorneys Prepped on Judging Debate Tournaments

BDL Volunteer Coordinator Sarah Amaral spoke with BBA volunteers about the organization and key tips for being an effective volunteer judge.

BDL Volunteer Coordinator Sarah Amaral spoke with BBA volunteers about the organization and key tips for being an effective volunteer judge.

On Tuesday evening, attorneys came to 16 Beacon Street to get the low down on volunteering as a judge for the Boston Debate League (BDL). The BDL has drastically expanded its reach over the last few years, so the demand for qualified volunteers to judge Boston Public High School debaters is at an all-time high.

By acting as a volunteer judge at monthly tournaments the BDL, you can make a significant impact on a high school student’s future. Check out this stat from BDL: nearly 100% of students who participate in an urban debate league graduate from high school and more than 80% graduate from a four-year college.

Even if you couldn’t make the training on Tuesday, BDL is looking for volunteer judges for an upcoming tournament on October 18th and 19th. For more information on how to get involved in the Boston Debate League, please contact Katie D’Angelo, Public Service Programs Coordinator, at kdangelo@bostonbar.org.

September Shines with Public Service Opportunities

The Boston Debate League judges' training is one of the many public service-related events taking place at the BBA this month.

The Boston Debate League judges training is one of the many public service-related events taking place at the BBA this month.

If you are interested in diving into public service this fall, Beyond the Billable has you covered. The month of September offers a number of occasions to receive specialized training and information on opportunities to get more involved in the community.

Here is a look at the upcoming events:

• Calling all new lawyers— join the New Lawyers Section for a Pro Bono Kick Off Meeting and Info Session on September 11th from 5:30-7:30 to learn how you can get more involved in public service activities through the BBA. Click here to register.

• Are you looking for a new pro bono opportunity? Attend to the CORI Training on September 16th from 3-6 pm. The training will prepare you to help clients from Roxbury, Dorchester and other low-income Boston communities to seal their records and break the cycle of poverty and unemployment. Click here to sign up.

• Learn how to be an effective volunteer judge for the Boston Debate League (BDL) at the training on September 24th from 4:30-6 pm. BDL offers busy attorneys low-commitment and meaningful volunteer opportunities. Attorneys can use their unique skills to help Boston Public High School students improve their critical thinking, public speaking, and argumentation skills. Click here to sign up for the training.

Stay tuned for more public service opportunities coming up later this fall. With Pro Bono Month fast approaching in October, the calendar will continue to fill up.

Mentoring Boston Debate League Youth – Real Commitment Means Real Impact

Boys Taking Notes

The Boston Debate League teaches Boston Public High School students valuable skills, such as public speaking and critical thinking.

Are you a former debater looking to get more involved in the community? Beyond the Billable has the perfect volunteer opportunity for you — the Boston Debate League (BDL) is seeking mentors for the 2013-2014 program year. As a mentor, you will attend a weekly, after school debate practice and work with debaters to cultivate public speaking, critical thinking, and analytical skills.

So why get involved? Academic debate teams have a significant impact on the future of the participants. According to BDL, nearly 100% of students who participate in an urban debate league graduate from high school and more than 80% graduate from a four-year college.

Beyond the Billable reached out to current BBA mentor Stephanie Hoeplinger for a firsthand perspective of this volunteer opportunity.

What was your experience volunteering as a Boston Debate League mentor?

“I originally chose to volunteer as a mentor because I wanted to get more involved in the community. I am a big proponent of public schools, so I thought it would be a great fit. I think that, for me, it was a great volunteer experience because I got to see the kids grow and develop over the debate season, so for others looking for a long-term volunteer activity it is a great choice, as the ability to work with a group of kids throughout the year is really rewarding.”

Why do you think lawyers make good debate mentors?

“Lawyers are uniquely qualified to serve as mentors because of our skills as debaters — it is basically what we do in court on a daily basis. Students argue their side and even to cross-examine the other team. I think lawyers, in particular, can help them to think of good questions to ask and can push them to think about the issues in varying ways.”

For more information on how to volunteer, please contact Katie D’Angelo, Public Service Programs Coordinator, at kdangelo@bostonbar.org.

March is a Big Month for Boston Debate League

As you’ve no doubt noticed, Beyond the Billable is always posting about our public service partnerships across Greater Boston. One of our newest partnerships is the Boston Debate League (BDL)—which works to develop academic debate skill among Boston Public High School students. As we learned when we sat down with two BDL representatives recently, March is a particularly busy month for the program, for both potential and past volunteers.

Making a Point 2

A Boston Community Leadership Academy student and a New Mission High School student debate during a Boston Debate League round.

Here’s what’s happening this month:

(1) Are you looking to volunteer? Serve as a judge at the Fish & Richards City Debate Championships on March 15th or 16th at English High School and Trinity Middle School. Volunteers judge for about 4 hours and a short training is provided. Please contact Sarah Amaral, BDL Volunteer Coordinator, at sarah@bostondebate.org to sign up.

(2) Want to sit in on a debate session before volunteering? On March 19th you will have a chance to see the top debaters in action at the City Council Debate 2013 hosted by Councillor Charles Yancey. , where students will debate current Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority policies for an esteemed panel of judges. The event will take place from 5:30-7:30 pm at Boston City Hall.

(3) Have you volunteered as a judge or mentor? Don’t miss the chance to join the Boston Debate League in honoring the hard work of the debaters on March 22nd at the Annual Spring Awards Ceremony from 6-7:30pm. The event is hosted by the Boston University School of Education, the Boston University Black Law Student Association, and the Boston Debate League and will take place at the Boston University Law School Alumni Auditorium.

Did anything above catch your eye? Contact Katie D’Angelo, Public Service Programs Coordinator, at kdangelo@bostonbar.org for more information. To learn more about the impact BDL has on urban youth, click here.

BBA Volunteers Make Big Impact at Local Debate Tournaments

Last year, as we began our partnership with the Boston Debate League (BDL), enlisting lawyers to be judges for debate tournaments, there was a buzz of excitement throughout the BBA. In a few short months the partnership is already a resounding success.

Every month from October through March, BDL holds debate tournaments for Boston Public High School debate teams. So far this year, almost 40 BBA volunteers have been judges at tournaments. After a successful January tournament, BDL reached out to the BBA to thank us for our collaboration:

This month we had a struggle for volunteers but it all worked out. The BBA members allowed our tournament to have a good core of knowledgeable judges for our more experienced divisions (varsity/championship) and made themselves available for our divisions who didn’t have as many volunteers sign up to judge for the weekend. Thank you so much for your support.

In addition to the judges, there are also four BBA members who are mentors for BDL. These mentors spend one to two hours a week supporting a debate team in a particular high school.

The BBA’s partnership with BDL fulfills three of the BBA’s many public service goals: 1)  using lawyering skills to make a significant impact on the Boston community, 2) providing BBA members with a meaningful volunteer opportunity, and 3) expanding the diversity pipeline into the legal profession.

2010 City Championship Brighton

Boston Debate League 2010 City Championship

We would like to thank our volunteers:

Mentors
Catherine Drislane (Boston Latin Academy)
Greg Peterson (Charlestown)
Jessica Block ( EMK High School)
Stephanie Hoelplinger ( Irving Middle School)

Judges
Allison Hynes
Angelo Guisado
Ashley Hayes
Camal Robinson
Caroline Hanania
Christina Miller
Courtney Zhou
Deborah Goddard
Edmond Ford
Elizabeth Ybarra Crean
Erica Carroll
Fran Sheehan
Heather Sit
Jacqueline Delbasty
Jacquelyn Redmond
Jesse Grove
Jonathan Driscoll
Kathleen Micciche
Kerlin Jean-Louis
Kyu Cho
Lei Reilley
Mark Zglobicki
Michael Boudett
Michael Dsida
Michael Sugar
Natalie Galley
Nina Mathur
Rachna Mathur
Reidan Fredstrom
Robert Ullmann
Ryan Mulloy
Shannon Dale
Stephen Marsters
Tarae Howell
Vickie Henry
William Fitzpatrick

For more information about volunteering or the program, please contact Katie D’Angelo, Public Service Programs Coordinator, at kdangelo@bostonbar.org.

Public Service Year in Photos

In January 2012, the John & Abigail Adams Benefit raised over $600,000. That amount helped to fund grants to 24 Massachusetts community organizations providing legal services in areas such as immigration, domestic violence and homelessness.

Volunteer lawyers and law students help unrepresented tenants and landlords with a range of services, from information, and advice for full representation in eviction proceedings.  Since May 1999, an estimated 12,000 volunteers have assisted more than 14,700 individuals. Joanna Allison Staff Attorney at the Volunteer Lawyers Project and Chris Saccardi, Law Office of Christopher T. Saccardi at the Boston Housing Court.

At the BBA Lawyer for a Day in the Boston Housing Court, volunteer lawyers and law students helped unrepresented tenants and landlords with a range of services — from information and advice to full representation in eviction proceedings. Since May 1999, an estimated 12,000 volunteers have assisted more than 14,700 individuals. Joanna Allison Staff Attorney at the Volunteer Lawyers Project and Chris Saccardi, Law Office of Christopher T. Saccardi at the Boston Housing Court.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley spoke to East Boston High School students as part of the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program, a joint program of the Boston Bar Association and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley spoke to East Boston High School students as part of the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program, a joint program of the Boston Bar Association and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Emily Hodge, Choate, Hall & Stewart, teaches students about the importance of due process and access to justice at the Josiah Quincy Elementary School. In May 2012, 28 volunteers taught 580 students at 5 different schools about the field of law.

Emily Hodge, Choate, Hall & Stewart LLP, as part of Law Day in the Schools taught students about the importance of due process and access to justice at the Josiah Quincy Elementary School. In May 2012, 28 volunteers taught 580 students at 5 different schools about the field of law.

The Lawyer Referral Service (LRS), is the BBA’s largest public service program, with a specific commitment to reaching historically underserved populations. The LRS Program connects callers in need of legal assistance with qualified help from private attorneys, legal services agencies, government offices and community programs.

The Lawyer Referral Service (LRS), is the BBA’s largest public service program, with a specific commitment to reaching historically underserved populations. The LRS Program connects callers in need of legal assistance with qualified help from private attorneys, legal services agencies, government offices and community programs.

In its ninth year of producing young public interest leaders, the Public Interest Leadership Program selected an outstanding class of 14 up-and-coming leaders from the largest-ever applicant pool. The 2012-2013 class of the BBA's Public Interest Leadership Program. L-R: Omar F. Gonzalez-Pagan, Staci Rubin, Benton B. Bodamer, Christopher T. Saccardi, Eric A. Haskell, Julia E. Devanthéry, Jacqueline Silva Anchondo, Emily F. Hodge, Meghan D. H. Walsh Raquel Webster and Daniel M. Routh

In its ninth year of producing young public interest leaders, the Public Interest Leadership Program selected an outstanding class of 14 up-and-coming leaders from the largest-ever applicant pool. The 2012-2013 class of the BBA’s Public Interest Leadership Program. L-R: Omar F. Gonzalez-Pagan, Staci Rubin, Benton B. Bodamer, Christopher T. Saccardi, Eric A. Haskell, Julia E. Devanthéry, Jacqueline Silva Anchondo, Emily F. Hodge, Meghan D. H. Walsh Raquel Webster and Daniel M. Routh.

The Mayor’s Youth Council, a partnership between the BBA, Mayor’s Office and Northeastern University, gives young people the opportunity to reach out to other Boston teens. The BBA provides the Mayor’s Youth Council lawyer-mentors. Lisa Goodheart, Past President of the BBA with Mayor Thomas M. Menino at the 2012 Mayor’s Youth Council Reception at Northeastern University.

The Mayor’s Youth Council, a partnership between the BBA, the Mayor’s Office and Northeastern University, gives young people the opportunity to reach out to other Boston teens. The BBA provides the Mayor’s Youth Council lawyer-mentors. Lisa Goodheart, Past President of the BBA with Mayor Thomas M. Menino at the 2012 Mayor’s Youth Council Reception at Northeastern University.

Larry DiCara, a partner at Nixon Peabody and former member and president of the Boston City Council conducts a mock City Council hearing with the 2012 Summer Jobs students. L-R: Tatenda Mundeke, Aubrey Griffin, Raymond Cen, Ashley Dixon, and Samantha Argon.

Larry DiCara, a partner at Nixon Peabody and former President of the Boston City Council conducted a mock City Council hearing with the 2012 Summer Jobs students. L-R: Tatenda Mundeke, Aubrey Griffin, Raymond Cen, Ashley Dixon, and Samantha Argon.

At the 4th Annual Pro Bono Fair for Attorneys and Law Students sponsored by BBA and the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service, Sarah Sherman-Stokes of the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project, a Boston Bar Foundation Grantee, explains the pro bono opportunities available in Greater Boston.

At the 4th Annual Pro Bono Fair for Attorneys and Law Students sponsored by BBA and the Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service, Sarah Sherman-Stokes of the Political Asylum/Immigration Representation Project, a Boston Bar Foundation Grantee, explained the pro bono opportunities available in Greater Boston.

BBA President James D. Smeallie talks to 8th and 9th graders at Quincy Upper School during the Principal for A Day program on Tuesday, November 13th. The program allowed public and private sector leaders to better understand the improvements and remaining challenges in the Boston public school system.

BBA President James D. Smeallie talked with 8th and 9th graders at Quincy Upper School during the Principal for A Day program on Tuesday, November 13th. The program allowed public and private sector leaders to better understand improvements and remaining challenges in the Boston public school system.

Steve Stein, Executive Director of Boston Debate League conducts a training for BBA volunteers to be judges at debate tournaments. The BBA entered a partnership with Boston Debate League earlier this year.

Steve Stein, Executive Director of Boston Debate League trained BBA volunteers to be judges at debate tournaments. The BBA entered into a partnership with Boston Debate League earlier this year.

BBA Past President Renee Landers (Suffolk Law School) presented GLAD Civil Rights Project Director Mary Bonauto and Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley with the Beacon Award honoring Diversity & Inclusion for their work as lawyers in advancing same sex marriage. The Boston Bar Association’s third annual Beacon Award for Diversity & Inclusion took place on November 13 at the Liberty Hotel in Boston.

BBA Past President Renee Landers (Suffolk Law School) presented GLAD Civil Rights Project Director Mary Bonauto and Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley with the Beacon Award honoring Diversity & Inclusion for their work as lawyers in advancing same sex marriage. The Boston Bar Association’s third annual Beacon Award for Diversity & Inclusion took place on November 13 at the Liberty Hotel in Boston.

The Top 10 Reasons to be a Mentor to a Boston Public High School Debate Team

10. Boston high school debaters are amazing, dedicated kids.  They get up at 5 AM every school day, often taking multiple buses and trains to be in class by 7:15 AM.  Then they repeat that journey home to care for little brothers and sisters.  Sometimes their families have lived in Boston for generations.  Sometimes they are refugees from places like Somalia or Syria or Guatemala and act as interpreters for their parents.  They are intelligent.  Often highly intelligent.  Your time will be well spent.

9.  Many of these kids don’t start with the reading or analytical skills that their intelligence would suggest.  Many of them have a hard time pronouncing certain written words.  Debate and debate team practice is really a stealth way of tapping kids’ competitive drive so they want to internalize critical skills:  reading, understanding a text well enough to put it into their own words and metaphors, speaking fluently, having confidence that their evidence-backed views deserve to be heard, using math practically to estimate, breaking a problem down into its components, looking into the eyes of those they are speaking to.  You know how to do this cold.  Pass it on.

8.  Do you really think the teachers who are coaches can do this all by themselves?  They start work at 6 AM.  They work 11 hour days.  Over 100 college-educated adults are needed to judge each debate round of 400 kids at a single tournament.  Coaches are pressed into emergency service as judges, taking them away from their teams.  Some tournament weekends they have competing family needs.  These teacher-coaches need backup!

7. Every teacher I’ve met says that the Boston Debate League is the single best program in the Boston Public School system, hands down.  The “single best program in the Boston Public School system, hands down,” needs you.  Let it go to your head!

6.  Teaching a pack of high school boys, at their request, how to tie their own ties:  Be. The. Man.     

5.  When was the last time you walked into a room of clients and they shouted:  “Where have you been???  We missed you!!!” ?

4. You will never get lost driving around Eastie or Brighton or Dorchester again.

3.  Your parents came to your games in high school, right?  Their parents often can’t because they are working to make ends meet and can’t afford the time or the money to travel by mass transit to tournaments.  If you aren’t there, it is quite possible no one will be.  Who will explain judges’ comments?  Who will celebrate their triumphs?  Who will just be there as they experience defeat and figure out how to come back?  (A teenager who has just lost a debate round and asks for your advice really, really wants to hear it.)

2.  Where do you think the next generation of DAs, public defenders, judges, transactional lawyers, entrepreneurs, governors and presidents are going to come from?  Are you bothered by the increasing income and opportunity gap in America?  Well, here’s your chance to do something about it.  Urban education is the civil rights issue of our time. 

1.  Participation in the Boston Debate League is transformational.  The shy kids talk.  The class talkers listen.  Reading and thinking skills grow. Work and preparation habits put down roots.  It becomes cool to be smart and persuasive. College doors open.  Go ahead — get in touch with your inner miracle worker!

Greg Peterson is a real estate and environmental partner at Tarlow, Breed, Hart & Rodgers, P.C. in Boston.  He is listed in Best Lawyers in America and ranked in Chambers, U.S.A..  During the October, 2011 – March, 2012 Boston Debate League season he served as volunteer mentor to the Charlestown High School debate team.  He is looking forward to the 2012-13 BDL season.