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Potomac Oak Students Crowned World Champion of International Public Policy Forum Debate Contest

May 8, 2023 – A team of students from Potomac Oak in Rockville, Maryland, were crowned world champions Saturday, winning the 22nd Annual Brewer Foundation/New York University International Public Policy Forum (IPPF) debate competition and a $10,000 grand prize. The final debate was held at The Harold Pratt House in New York City.

The teams that competed in the IPPF Finals on Saturday, May 6, were the final “Elite Eight” teams to emerge from a field of more than 220 teams, representing high schools in 31 U.S. states and 22 countries. The teams debated the topic: “Resolved: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is an effective model for international cooperation."

As the new IPPF World Champion, the Potomac Oak team receives a $10,000 grand prize ($5,000 for the school’s debate program and $5,000 in individual scholarships) and the Brewer Cup. The team was coached by Elisa Chen Sukhobok, and the team members were Derek Mu, Kaden Chien, Evelyn Shue, Jonathan Fan, Alexander Liu, and Lily Peng.

“This amazing team supplemented months of written scholarship with outstanding oral advocacy – earning the title of 2023 IPPF World Champion,” says William A. Brewer III, partner at the Brewer firm and founder of the IPPF. “The IPPF provides students with the opportunity to sharpen skills that are fundamental to academic achievement: the ability to research topics of critical importance, synthesize complex material, and advocate for a position. These students demonstrated a ‘best in class’ performance against some of the most accomplished debaters in the world.”

In New York, Potomac Oak advanced over Mountain View-Los Altos Speech and Debate from Mountain View, California, in the quarterfinal round. The team advanced over EEC Debate from Toronto, Canada, in the semifinal round, before facing The Hockaday School from Dallas, Texas, in the finals.

The runner-up team, The Hockaday School, receives a $3,500 prize. Coached by Dr. Charles Walts, the team members were Sanika Agarwalla, Diya Hegde, Sidney Murray, Aarnah Kurella, Ariana Wang, and Evita Nino.

The top eight teams competing in the IPPF Finals represented schools in five U.S. states, Canada and Singapore.

The IPPF Finals give students the opportunity to participate in oral debates in front of some of the world’s foremost experts in debate, business, law and politics. This year's proceedings were judged by a panel comprised of NYU Global Debate Program Director Will Baker, NYU President Emeritus John Sexton, Journalist and Scholar James Traub, Notre Dame High School Director of Debate Christina Phillips, and Dave Huston, debate coach at Japer High School.

Sanika Agarwalla from The Hockaday School received the inaugural John E. Sexton award – recognizing the outstanding speaker of the 2023 IPPF Finals.

Founded in 2001, the IPPF is the only competition that gives high school students from around the globe the opportunity – for free – to engage in written and oral debates on issues of public policy.

The 2022-23 competition began in October, as teams submitted qualifying round essays on the IPPF topic. The number of entrants was among the largest in IPPF history. Judges selected the “Round of 64” teams, who then participated in a single-elimination, written debate contest ― volleying essays back and forth via e-mail. From November to March, the field was narrowed from 64 teams to 32, then 16, and finally to the eight teams that competed in oral debates at the IPPF Finals in New York. All participating students and coaches received an all-expenses-paid trip to New York City, as guests of the Brewer Foundation.

In New York, the quarterfinalists were UWC South East Asia from Singapore; Wasatch Independent Debate League from Riverton, Utah; Mountain View-Los Altos Speech & Debate from Mountain View, California; and Notre Dame San Jose from San Jose, California. Quarterfinalists each win $750.

The semifinalist teams — Mountain Vista High School from Highlands Ranch, Colorado, and EEC Debate from Toronto, Canada — each win $1,500.

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