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Westwood High School Students Crowned Champion of International Public Policy Forum Debate Contest

May 6, 2024 – A team of students from Westwood High School of Austin, Texas, bested a field of high schools from around the globe Saturday, winning the 23rd 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 4, were the final “Elite Eight” teams to emerge from a field of 311 teams. The IPPF’s 23rd annual competition began in October 2023, as teams representing schools in 26 countries and 33 U.S. states submitted qualifying round essays affirming or negating the IPPF topic, “Resolved: Governments should provide a universal basic income.”

 

As the new IPPF World Champion, the Westwood team receives a $10,000 grand prize ($5,000 for the school’s debate program and $5,000 in individual scholarships). The team was coached by Dominic Henderson, and the team members were Ethan Andrew, Pranav Balakrishnan, Eric Gong, Ayush Deo Tripathi, and Eric Zhu.

 

“These students were, in a word, outstanding,” says William A. Brewer III, chairman of the Brewer Foundation and a founder of the IPPF. “They demonstrated a command of the subject matter and unparalleled advocacy skills – earning the title of IPPF World Champion.”

 

In New York, Westwood advanced over Damien Memorial School from Honolulu, Hawaii, in the quarterfinal round and Davidson Academy of Nevada from Reno, Nevada, in the semifinal round, before facing Ivy Bridge Academy from Johns Creek, Georgia, in the finals.

 

The runner-up team, Ivy Bridge Academy, receives a $5,000 prize. Coached by Dr. Michael Hester, the team members were Aanya Baddela, Alyssa Chen, Saanvi Kadiyala, Sanjana Kadiyala, Rajveer Nadkar, Ethan Nam, Claire Park, Sneha Ramineni, Rikhil Ranjit, Tessica Selvaganesan, Saanvi Sinha, Rithwik Tamilselvan, Olivia Tye, and Gene Yoon.



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. 

 

The proceedings were judged by a panel comprised of Brewer, Miha Andric, an international debate coach and director of Education Center Argument, based in Slovenia; Will Baker, director of the NYU Global Debate Program; Sarah K. Cowan, founder and executive director of the Cash Transfer Lab and associate professor of Sociology at New York University; and Christina Phillips, director of debate at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, California. The debate moderator was David Baker, director of Admissions & Financial Aid at St. Mark’s School of Texas.

 

Rikhil Ranjit from Ivy Bridge Academy received the second annual John E. Sexton award, which honors an outstanding speaker in the final round as determined by the judges. The award is named after NYU President Emeritus Sexton, who serves on the IPPF Advisory Board.


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 2023-24 competition began in October, as teams submitted qualifying round essays on the IPPF topic. 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.

 

In New York, the quarterfinalists were Coppell High School from Coppell, Texas; Damien Memorial School from Honolulu, Hawaii; Grand Oaks High School from Spring, Texas; and West Anchorage High School from Anchorage, Alaska. Quarterfinalists each win $1,500. 


The semifinalist teams — Davidson Academy of Nevada and Hamilton High School from Chandler, Arizona — each win $3,000. 

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