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WASHINGTON – Tom Geggel readily admits that he only took a debate course in high school because his teacher recommended it and he needed an elective. That led Geggel, an industry analyst at Callahan & Associates, Inc., to join the debate team his sophomore year in high school, take related classes at Stanford and University of Michigan during the summers and get the opportunity to travel around the country to compete in tournaments. Geggel’s forte was cross examination policy debate, where one debates different policy ramifications and weighs the pros and cons. He would go on to attend Emory University in Atlanta where he was a member of one of the top programs in the country, Geggel said. While a college student there, he volunteered as a judge through the then newly-launched Urban Debate League, founded at Emory. The UDL’s mission is to use debate as a mechanism for urban education improvement, according to its Web site. UDLs currently exist in 14 cities, encompassing 221 urban public high schools and 40 middle schools. Even after moving to the Washington D.C. area, Geggel continued judging at local schools. Twice a month, he travels to debates and judges on everything from elocution to rationalizing a certain point of view. It helps that he used to be an overnight camp counselor. “Debate helps kids formulate arguments and rationalize decisions,” Geggel said. “A lot of debate is impromptu so you learn how to speak better on your feet.” Geggel said over the years, he’s watched how students he’s offered suggestions to have improved. “I see the kids at every tournament. I can see the growth and progression. It’s a lot of fun.” -

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