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Debate Team from West Hartford’s Westfield Academy Wins International Competition

From left: IPPF Founder William Brewer, along with Westfield Academy debaters Patrick Henderson, Benjamin Small and Benjamin Mione. Submitted photo

The team from Westfield Academy in West Hartford won the 16th Annual International Public Policy Forum (IPPF) Debate and took home the $10,000 grand prize.


A team of students from Westfield Academy of West Hartford, Connecticut, bested a field of teams from around the globe on Saturday, May 6 – winning the 16th Annual Brewer Foundation/New York University International Public Policy Forum (IPPF) debate competition and a $10,000 grand prize.

The teams that competed at the IPPF Finals on Saturday were the final “Elite Eight” teams to emerge from a field that began with more than 200 teams representing high schools in 23 countries.

The teams debated the IPPF topic: “Resolved: The obligation to provide safe haven for refugees should outweigh a government’s right to control its borders.”

Coached by Ann Walsh Henderson, the Westfield Academy team members are Seamus Connor, Aidan Harper, Patrick Henderson, Shiyun Tang, Benjamin Small, and Benjamin Mione. The team won by arguing in the affirmative. 

The team receives a $10,000 grand prize ($5,000 for the school’s debate program and $5,000 in individual scholarships). Westfield Academy is a community school that was founded to teach children oral advocacy skills and provide access to debate. 

“These student debaters put in months of hard work to achieve the title of IPPF World Champion,” said William A. Brewer III, partner at Brewer, Attorneys & Counselors and founder of the IPPF. “They impressed the judges with their superior research, writing and advocacy skills.”

Brewer added: “The students dedicated much of their school year to understanding one of the most significant and far-reaching public policy issues of our time: the global refugee crisis.”

The runner-up team, Beijing ENREACH of Beijing, China, receives a $3,500 prize. Coached by Christian Chessman and Jingbo Yang, the team members were Zheran He, Wanli Qian, Penghao Gao and Michael Chen.

The top eight teams competing in the IPPF Finals represented schools in six U.S. states, China and Taiwan.

The final debate was held at The Harold Pratt House in New York. It was judged by a panel composed of Brewer; NYU Stern School of Business Professor Michael H. Posner; Woodward Academy Director of Debate Maggie Berthiaume; NYU Director of Debate Will Baker; and Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation Science Program Associate Irena Kotikova.

Posner also delivered remarks at an awards ceremony to recognize the students and the IPPF program – one of the largest and most competitive debate contests in the world. 

Posner previously served as Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the U.S. Department of State.

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 2016-17 competition began in October, as 218 teams submitted qualifying round essays on the 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 October to March, the field was narrowed from 64 teams to 32, then 16, and finally to eight.

In New York, Westfield Academy advanced over Taipei American School in the quarterfinal round and North Allegheny Senior High School in the semifinal round, before facing Beijing ENREACH in the Finals.

The semifinalist teams — North Allegheny Senior High School and duPont Manual High School — each won $1,500. The Quarterfinalist teams each won $750.

The “Elite 8” teams participating in the IPPF Finals:

Beijing ENREACH, Beijing, China

duPont Manual High School from Louisville, KY

La Cañada High School from La Cañada, CA

North Allegheny Senior High School from Wexford, PA

Peak to Peak Charter School from Lafayette, CO

Taipei American School from Taipei, Taiwan

The Davidson Academy of Nevada, Reno, NV

Westfield Academy from West Hartford, CT

About the IPPF and the Brewer Foundation: 

The IPPF was founded in 2001 by the Brewer Foundation, and is now jointly administered with New York University. The program is available to all high schools around the world – public and private – for free. The IPPF is endorsed by leading forensic agencies, such as the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues, the International Debate Education Association, the Impact Coalition, Associated Leaders of Urban Debate Leagues, and the National Debate Coaches Association.

The Brewer Foundation is a private, non-profit organization funded by companies, individuals and the national litigation firm of Brewer, Attorneys & Counselors. With offices in New York and Dallas, the Foundation has achieved widespread recognition for its efforts to create, fund and manage a variety of educational outreach programs.

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