After-school at Inwood Academy

This article was originally written by and published on DOE Charter Schools Weekly.

Inwood Academy for Leadership Charter School is a middle school and high school located in Inwood, Manhattan. Since opening, Inwood Academy for Leadership has continued to offer students a wide range of after-school programming. Inwood Academy for Leadership views after-school enrichment as an opportunity for experiential learning, character building and overall academic improvement. More than 250 students are currently registered for after school programming, and over the years, Inwood Academy has offered an impressive list of classes including Photography, Drum Corps, Choir, Theater, Wrestling, Girls Who Code and Debate. Thanks to community partners such as Play Study Win, Inwood Academy for Leadership can offer a breadth of recreational activities.


On December 2nd, Inwood Academy for Leadership’s after-school debate team hosted the New York City Urban Debate League. The New York City Urban Debate League is the largest debate league in the nation, comprised of students from all five boroughs. Over 250 debaters were present for the competition. Leading up the to event, Inwood Academy for Leadership students prepared for the debate by meeting twice a week during after school programming. Students prepared arguments for both positions of a given debate question. For example, students came prepared to debate, “Should juveniles be charged as adults in the criminal justice system?”

Middle School Director of Afterschool, Denise Hykes, proudly watched the Inwood Academy for Leadership after-school debate team battle it out with evidence. When asked about her favorite part of coordinating Inwood Academy for Leadership’s after-school programming, Hykes shared, “I love it when the kids are empowered to organize and lead, whether it’s MCing an awards ceremony, taking leftover snacks to the nearby NYC Love Kitchen or watching the older students teach the younger students.”


Middle School Debate Team News

Are you interested in becoming a lawyer, a politician or just like to have the last word with your friends, parents and teachers? That’s what we asked our students last month and within three weeks Inwood Academy Middle School had its first debate team and were off to its first tournament.

The debate team is offered through the Afterschool Enrichment Program. When I applied to be part of the enrichment staff I mentioned my participation in debates and was quickly recruited to launch the school’s first debate team. My colleague Justin Diaz, also part of the afterschool program, has tons of debate experience and together we coach the team.

On Saturday, October 10th, the debate team participated in the Middle School Parliamentary Debate 1st Tournament (Manhattan/Harlem Debate Leagues, operated by The Debate League of New York City). For the debate, we split our students into two Inwood Academy teams for the three-person parliamentary debate:

Jasmin Lantigua (8th grade), Janelys Guadalamar (7th grade), Laura Rodriguez (6th grade)
Jorge Chavarria (8th grade), Ashley Michel (7th grade), Taina Carbuccia (6th grade)

It was quite extraordinary to see these students step up and form arguments on topics they had a very short time to learn. Before the debate, we spent the first few sessions in afterschool on the structure and format of a parliamentary debate and how to build an argument and it left little time to research both sides of all three policies, proposition and opposition, they needed to know for the debate. As with all debates, they did not know which policy or side they were to represent. The parliamentary debate topics included:

This House would raise the minimum wage.
This House would make panhandling illegal.
This House would implement year-round school.

They worked extremely hard and for that we’re proud.  Justin and I are also very excited for the students ranking: Jorge, Taina, Ashley ranked 10th in Beginners 3-Person Parliamentary Debate, Top 3-Person Teams (out of 33 teams), receiving trophies for making the top ten teams! Jorge Chavarria ranked 16th in Beginners 3-Person Parliamentary Debate, Top Individual Speakers (out of 93 speakers), receiving a medal for making the top 20!  Did I say we’re proud?

All middle school students can audition to join the debate team. They can contact me at Students will learn what formal debate looks like, research topics, and practice for competition, in order to debate more tournaments with other middle schools this school-year.