Not Surprised, Harlem Middle School Debate Teams Are Finalists In Harvard HS Debate Tournament

February 19, 2020

Nine teams from Success Academy Harlem middle schools competed in the 46th Annual Harvard Debate Tournament over President’s Day weekend. Four teams from Harlem finished in the top 16 teams in the country, beating out students several years their senior on high school debate teams from all over the country. In total, Success Academy sent 30 middle school teams to the tournament and 10 teams made it to elimination rounds.

Success Academy Harlem East Middle School scholars Amy Beloume and Anikah Ameen made it to the quarterfinals at the tournament in a debate on the topic of banning arms sales to Israel. (Debate topics were determined by Harvard Debate Program.) Beloume and Ameen finished in the top eight teams in the country.

Success Academy debate teams made up eight of the top 16 finalists, including Success Academy Harlem North Central scholars Baila Diallo and Mariama Thiam. Diallo and Thiam debated the war in Yemen and the merits of US arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Also in the top 16 teams, SA Harlem East scholars Sarah Eyre and Joseph Leiva debated the rights of black Palestinians in Israel. Success Academy Harlem West’s Aminata Bathily teamed up with Bed-Stuy Middle School scholar Vladimir Brezeau to debate the effects of US influence on black Hondurans’ arms sales to Nicaragua.

“I am so proud of the Success Academy debate teams’ continued growth and success,” said Delaney Hellman, debate coach at Success Academy Harlem North Central. “It’s so rewarding to watch our scholars explore these powerful arguments and discover their voices.”

Founded in 2006, Success Academy Charter Schools are free public K-12 schools open to all children in the state through a random lottery. With 45 schools across Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens, Success Academy enrolls 18,000 students, primarily children of color from low-income households in disadvantaged neighborhoods: 74% receive free or reduced-price lunch, 94% are students of color, 16% have disabilities, and 8% are English language learners. Success Academy schools received more than 17,000 applications for about 4,000 open seats for the 2019-20 academic year.

For more information about Success Academy, go to

Photo credit: 1) Success Academy Harlem North Central Middle School Debate Team on their way to Cambridge, MA for the Harvard Debate Tournament. 2) Success Academy Harlem East scholars (L to R): Anikah Ameen, Sarah Eyre, Amy Beloume, and Joseph Leiva.

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