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After more than a decade of funding from the Swearer Center for Public Service, the Rhode Island Urban Debate League — an educational program designed for local high school students — is seeking financial independence, said Matt Grimes '10, one of the league's student coordinators. The program will still be associated with Brown, but an outside organization will provide financial backing once the program identifies a sponsor.

The league operates in 15 schools throughout Rhode Island, with about 100 participants from these schools competing at any given time, Grimes said.

Though the Rhode Island chapter is part of a national network of urban debate leagues, Grimes said, "the league here is unique in that it's run through a university." The Swearer Center founded the chapter in 1999 and has operated it since, but the new organizational structure will more closely match that of other urban debate leagues, said Roger Nozaki MAT'89, director of the Swearer Center and associate dean of the College for community and global engagement.

Given the fact that other urban leagues around the country are either affiliated with other organizations or operate alone, Nozaki said, Rhode Island's league "can be stronger on its own."

"This is a conversation that has been going on for many years — looking at what is the right structure for the league," he said.

While the league intends to find new sponsors quickly, "It remains an open question whether or not this is going to work," Grimes said. "The Swearer Center isn't going to let us die."

Nozaki said the debate league is "a very important program." With the group's new independence, he said his office is "committed to making it a successful transition."
Though the league will not receive financial backing from the Swearer Center after it finds an external sponsor, "Brown student interest is a key driving force in the league," said Grimes.

Because of the league's affiliation with the University, many Brown students participate in the program, Grimes said. He added that volunteers from Brown "provide thousands of hours of free labor every year" through coaching students, judging rounds and running tournaments.

Tara Sennick, a senior at Woonsocket High School who competes in the league, said she has benefited from her interactions with volunteers from Brown. She said there is a big difference between being coached by college students and being coached by hired staff.

The students from Brown "seem to genuinely care about we're learning," she said. "They can talk to us on a better level because they're only a few years older than us."



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