Achievement First Wins National Transportation Tournament in D.C.!


Taking this opportunity was a new experience to me because it is different unlike any other typical high school policy debate. This debate not only engaged me with new people that work in various aspects of the TRB, but it also helped me consider what I wanted to pursue in college and as a career. The amount of research on transportation policies and crucial issues drives me to be a well-aware, engaged American. I am constantly learning new aspects of our nation everyday.”

– Raiesa Fraser, Achievement First Brooklyn HS

“I knew that debate was full of wonders but I would have never thought it would have led me to the once in a lifetime opportunity of speaking in front of such powerful people. After going to this debate I have decided to consider continuing debating next year in college.”

– Avril Gordon Joseph, Achievement First Brooklyn HS

Policy Debate is the oldest debate event in the United States. A single national topic is decided for the year and debaters research, study and debate this single topic year round. Students basically earn a Masters degree in that topic area. This year’s policy debate topic is on national transportation reform.

Thanks to the generous support of the New York General Contractors Association, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, and the National Association of Urban Debate Leagues – our debate league was only one of two leagues across the nation to be invited to participate in one of the largest industry conferences on transportation infrastructure – the Transportation Research Board’s 92nd Annual Meeting in Washington, DC. Arguing the affirmative case were Raiesa Fraser and Avril Gordon Joseph of the Achievement First Brooklyn High School.  Their opponents were one of the top debate teams from the Baltimore Urban Debate League.

The judges included some of the top transportation experts in the entire country including Dorval Carter, Chief Counsel at the Federal Transit Administration (FTA); Julie Cunningham, President and CEO of the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO); Susan Kurland, Assistant Secretary for Aviation and International Affairs of the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S DOT); Shirley McCall, Director of the TransTech Academy at Cardozo Senior High School; Lucy Priddy, Research Civil Engineer, U.S. Army and incoming chair for TRB’s Young Members Council; Jeffrey Shane, partner at Hogan Lovells and former Under Secretary of Policy at U.S. DOT under George W. Bush; and Charles Wright, Executive Director for the James E. Clyburn University Transportation Center at South Carolina State University.

Our debaters presented arguments for federal government investment in transportation infrastructure, including evidence from their own experiences as commuter students in New York. Members of the audience and the judges were impressed not only with the teams’ excellent debate skills, but with their preparedness and poise before an audience of transportation leaders.

At the end of the debate, the judge panel explained that the decision was very close – but that the NYC Debate Team had won!!!!!!