CCSF 'Dream Team' Release

Photo: Gabrielle Lurie, SF Examiner


No. 1 Ranked CCSF Speech & Debate “Dream Team” Heads to National Finals

Tops all four-year and two-year colleges in CA, NV, HI

(March 12, 2015 - SAN FRANCISCO) – They call themselves the Dream Team.

And after defying the odds, ranking 1st among all colleges in the region and earning a coveted team ticket to the American Forensics Association National Individual Events Tournament, who would dare argue with the six local kids from City College of San Francisco?

It’s a David versus Goliath story that feels more like Hollywood blockbuster than real-life. But it’s a reality for these six community college students, who have found their voices in CCSF’s Speech and Debate Program and carved out a spot on the format’s biggest stage in the process.

Qualifying for the prestigious national tournament is a crucible for any college team, requiring multiple wins in several tournaments throughout the year. City College of San Francisco, currently packed with talent, has taken top honors at tournaments throughout this year and last year, qualifying for the second year running. This is a standout feat for any college–let alone a community college competing with some of the most elite four-year colleges in the nation.

People are taking notice.

Their sustained success has taken them beyond earning a place at nationals. It’s put City College at the top of their region, ranking #1 above every other four-year and two-year university in California, Nevada and Hawaii (including powerhouses UC Berkeley and University of Southern California).

Powered by six Bay Area locals, the champion student debaters have taken on all comers, winning tournament after tournament with a powerful blend of original rhetoric steeped in their unique urban perspective.

Eschewing the traditional “policy” format, the six person team focuses on an interpretive side of debate–a form that includes delivering their own pieces of original oratory and existing literature it in front of a panel of judges, competing against other students with a single performance.

Widely considered the highwire act of debate, the Oral Interpretation format requires an extra creative spark and verve that cuts across cultural lines to deliver a message, and it’s nerve wracking requirements have been known to turn confident speakers to jelly.

Frequently a team with the most underrepresented backgrounds in the room, the CCSF Dream Team speaks with a unique voice that has a tendency to shake an audience of well-heeled private-school debate teams.

“I think we shock people in a lot of these tournaments,” said Diana Norton, a member of the team, “You can hear the room go silent.”

Eloquent, confident and whip-smart, many in the all-local the team are the first in their family to go to college. “This is a chance for these students from underrepresented groups to have a voice and be heard,” added faculty coach Robert Hawkins.

With 5 of the 6 hailing from South San Francisco High, the team chose to come to City College of San Francisco for its debate program headed by inspirational faculty coaches and former champion debaters Nathan Steele and Robert Hawkins, who also teaches debate at South San Francisco High.

“The coaches were the reason we came to CCSF,” said Jeff Antonio, a member of the squad. “They helped us develop our voices, our material, everything.”

With a mountain of obstacles behind them and a shot at gold on the horizon, they’re treating this year’s AFA NIET tournament like there’s no tomorrow.

“The fact that these students can rise to the level of a Harvard or Berkeley is remarkable,” said CCSF Spokesman Jeff Hamilton. “It’s proof that success is not a function of the color of your skin, your economic background, your cultural heritage or your sexual orientation. It’s about having access to affordable quality education, and here at City College of San Francisco, that’s what we’re all about.”

How does it feel to be a community college speech and debate team headed to the most prestigious tournament in the country to compete against the most elite private schools?

“Like we have nothing to lose,” said speech and debate team member Myla Calilong, grinning. “I just want to move someone.”

Earned Media:

Story initially specially pitched to Mike Sugarman at CBS took off, getting coverage Bay Area wide in almost every major outlet, including some front page features – and getting reposted across the web on blogs and hyperlocal sites. The story went on to become an example of the unrecognized successes CCSF students and faculty have throughout the year.

SF Examiner (Front Page)





SF Appeal