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First Lady Michelle Obama Honors Erik Fogel and the Great Debaters


In 2006, high school history teacher Erik Fogel established a small debate team of four students at the Bronx School for Law, Government, and Justice. Since then, his debate team has grown to become the largest Title I debate team in not just New York City, but the state and country. The students involved in the after school activity carried the Law, Government, and Justice Great Debaters to become the first Title I school to win city, state, and national titles. Seeing the success of his school’s debate team, Erik worked to bring debate to students all over New York City. He created The New York City Urban Debate League (NYCUDL). The NYCUDL is a citywide, year round debate league open to all students at all schools - free of cost. Because of his success with the New York City Urban Debate League, Erik and his Great Debaters were honored by First Lady Michelle Obama as one of the twelve after school programs to receive the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award.

In a short video, Erik explains how he used DonorsChoose.org to obtain computers for his students to learn how to type and research, paper to take notes in debates, timers to use in debate rounds, and countless other items that helped his debate program flourish. With these materials, Erik was able to watch his students and debate team flourish.More importantly, however, Erik recognizes the incredible impact a positive extracurricular experience such as the Great Debaters can have a student’s future. He states in his video that of the students involved in the NYCUDL, “100% of the graduates go to college, most on a full or partial scholarship.”Huge congratulations to Erik Fogel and the New York City Urban Debate League!

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