Welcome to the "STARS" Debate Program Online Community 

Congratulations to all of the 2012 Participants!

Article from www.emich.edu Special thank you to State Rep Harvey Santana for judging our debates and for volunteering to judge again on June 9, 2012 at EMU. Thank you to Eastern Michigan University for providing the space for the final debates and to Judge Denise Langford Morris for the use of her courtroom and judging the final debate set to take place on June 15th!

The Stars Middle School Debate Program was started by Autumn Harris, a recent Eastern Michigan University Social Work Graduate . As many of the parents will tell you, participating in this debate program has changed the behaviors and social interactions of their children for the better. Autumn herself has seen all of the students transform their individual personalities in some way. She wanted to develop a program that could be used to help students from any economic or ethnic background to feel more confident about their abilities and increase learning at the same time.

After a successful season of The STARS Debate Program in 2011. The Program returns again in 2012 for Farmington Middle School 7th and 8th graders. The program has been tailored to meet the needs of students who have never debated before and those who have experience in debating from last seasons program. The programs 5 Week final debate will be sponsored by EMU and held in Halle Library Auditorium June 2nd. Judges will include 9th District State Representative Harvey Santana and other local politicians. The topic being debated is Universal Healthcare and its positive or negative effects if implemented in the United States. Now it is the time for them to showcase all that they have learned and how their confidence and research abilities have grown.

The students involved in the 8-Week program have also been researching and learning more about debate. There topic focuses on the United States Prison System. The students intense debating skills will be put to the test on June 9th where four teams of two will be chosen to participate in a final debate at the Oakland County Circuit Court from 9:30 AM-12:30 PM on June 15th. Oakland County Judge Denise Langford Morris has volunteered her time and courtroom to judge the final debate on that date. Students will debating various scenarios and portraying experienced attorneys who are defending real people. In addition to the courtroom experience, all of the students will be visiting the Supreme Court on June 12th with a special guest and meet and greet with Vicki Barnett, Farmington District State Representative. During the Supreme Court experience, students will have the opportunity to witness live legislative debates.

We would like to invite all media representatives to our final debate to witness this amazing program. We are interested in expanding our debate program to other school districts throughout the State of Michigan. To review other media reports on the program please go to www.emich.edu on the main page or Heritage Newspapers, Ann Arbor.

To learn more information about how to bring the STARS MIDDLE SCHOOL DEBATE PROGRAM to your school District email Autumn Harris at StarsDebate@gmail.com

From left, Brandon Gayles, Isha Nadgauda, Shane Saxton, Kayla Sharp, Donovan Smith, Tommy Dye, Matthew Yi and Kyle Hammond are pictured at the final debate at Eastern Michigan University on Dec. 17.

Social work student creates debate program for high-achieving middle school students


by Amy Whitesall, Published April 18, 2012

Eastern Michigan social work senior Autumn Harris has learned that good things happen when you take a chance.

Autumn Harris

Autumn Harris talks with student in STARS program

Harris, 27, wins concert tickets, trips, VIP perks. (If you're that person who never wins anything, she's that other person.)  In 2008, while she and her husband were on vacation in California, they spent the night in line for tickets to be on The Price is Right. Harris was the first one called to "Come on down!" She won a flat screen TV and a living room set.

"I'm always into everything; I guess it's just my personality," she said "Anybody who knows me knows I'm just so lucky."

So when a friend in Farmington mentioned that the school district's Together for Accelerated Learners group was interested in creating a debate program for high-achieving middle schoolers, Harris - who had no experience with formal debate - didn't hesitate.

She jumped in and created the five-week STARS Middle School Debate Program, which introduced 46 middle school students to debate and culminated in a Dec. 17 final debate at the EMU Student Center.

The program was so well-received that she's now putting together 5- and 8- week spring programs for about 150 students in the Detroit and Farmington school districts.

"Debate teaches them critical thinking skills; they learn how to think on their feet," she said. "...Even over those five weeks - that short time - I was able to see the difference with their thinking processes and the effort they put into it."

Harris, whose high school didn't offer debate, says she dug in and did a lot of reading and research to build the program. And then she learned along with the kids and the other coaches. She and three other coaches met once a week with seventh- and eight-graders from three middle schools - two in Farmington and one in Detroit. They taught the steps of debate, helped the students with their research, arranged for them to meet with experts representing opposing sides of their chosen issues. One group divided over animal research, the other debated the benefits and drawbacks of banning peanut butter in schools.

"When the program first started they were all a little nervous about speaking in front of a crowd, said coach Orlando Harris (no relation to Autumn), a Colorado Technical University student from the Detroit area. "By the time it was done, with the way they were presenting  the information, they were (converting) some of the parents... In one word, it's confidence."

Autumn Harris recalled one young man in particular, the class clown in her group at the beginning of the program. She started working with him one-on-one during the coaching sessions, and by the time he'd finished his research, he was like a different kid.

"His whole persona changed," Harris said. "Our focus was on being professional - this is how you speak, this is how you stand. I started to see the change in his body language, in the way he spoke, the way he organized his speech. He was like a young professional man."

Harris found her way to social work after dabbling in more clinical majors - nursing, respiratory therapy, radiology. She says she's always been interested in the workings of the mind, and creating the debate program spoke to that interest. But the emotional investment didn't fully hit her until one of the mock debates, when she realized how far her students had come.

"I broke down and started crying during one of those mock debates," she said. "I told them, 'Just watching you guys grow meant so much to me.' I felt like I was making a difference in these young children's lives."


About the Program:


The STARS debate curriculum is designed to teach public speaking, critical thinking, listening,and debating to students in the middle grades. The program is also designed to foster debate participation in future competition. Students who debate may use any number of debate formats to facilitate research, discussion, and deliberation on important social issues and events. Students who debate in this program use a unique debate format designed for middle school students. The STARS format draws from multiple popular debate formats and educational standards to combine rigorous practice and preparation with accessibility and fun.





Higher Education In Prisons Affirmative Speaker - Gloria Lee


      Gloria Lee is the author of over two dozen books on topics that dig deep into the causes of crime and violence in America.  She is also founded The National Institute of The Study Violence. She is a woman of survival, determination, and indomitable strength.  Her entire life has been dedicated to overcoming obstacles and winning.   She has survived a heart operation and breast cancer, weathering several surgeries over a scant few years.  She believes in mastering her circumstances.   Her mother taught her losing was not an option.  A person is to work at a problem until that problem is overcome or death arrives.  She is a woman who comes from a humble childhood and obtained her first job at the age of 7.  She earned her first dollar walking the streets with her grand aunt pushing a cart collecting scrap metal and cardboard.   Her second after school jobs were sweeping and cleaning a barber shop and a pool hall.  The young Gloria began a life long love affair with literature at an early age that has manifested into the book you now hold in your hand. 

     In 1963, Gloria enlisted in the U.S. Air Force.  In 1976 she was an aid worker with the International Red Cross.  Working in Malaysia and Indonesia, she helped rescue ethnic Chinese refugees arriving in boats from Vietnam.   Imagine being on a small boat rescuing people and you cannot swim.  When she returned home she donated her time to tutoring young children in both math and reading.  Gloria knows the ups and downs of life.  She has gone from being an owner of a successful business to living a year with her young son in her car.  Her vast experience as an aid worker, soldier, an administrator, and a homeless person prepared her as a writer.  You will truly enjoy her method of introducing subjects such as prostitution, religion, murder, adultery, and incest.  Her books are filled with so much information you will want to reread her books just to make certain you did not miss anything.    She deliberately introduces information to help save lives. 

     Her passion for writing, reading, and most of all, justice for the weakest in our society, shines through in her work.  My personal favorite has yet to be released.  That would be the series "Do This In Remembrance of Me."  These eight volumes discuss the murders of over 20,000 American women.  Through her research, Gloria has dissected how violence plagues our society, and what everyone can do to empower themselves.  You may find her work chilling and you may be surprised, but what makes Gloria Lee's writing so endearing is she is speaking from a place of authenticity that few writers can claim.  This is why I find I can seldom put her books down. 

Terri Redwine C.E.O. of Prosperity Village

Universal Healthcare Affirmative Speaker - Michigan Universal Health Care Access Network (MichUHCAN), Executive Director, Majorie Mitchell

Univesal Healthcare Negative Speaker - TBD

Higher Education In Prisons Negative Speaker -  Ithaca School District Superintendent, Nathan Bootz and Susan J. Demas | Political columnist for           MLive.com          Wrote the article:  "Rick Snyder picks prisons over public universities" Susan J. Demas is a a contributing political columnist who provides opinion, analysis and reports breaking news on local and national issues from a Michigan perspective. She is a 2006 Knight Foundation fellow in The Fourth Estate and the Third Sector program for nonprofits investigative journalism through Marshall University. She writes Capitol Chronicles, named one of Washington Post's best political blogs for 2009. Demas is a political analyst for Michigan Information & Research Service (MIRS) covering the Senate and presidential election. She writes a syndicated political column reaching 3 million readers for RealClearPolitics, the Detroit News, Dome Magazine, Lansing State Journal and eight newspapers for mlive.com. Demas’ work has run in or on more than 60 national, international and regional media outlets including NBC News, Newsweek, Forbes, National Public Radio, The Atlantic, The Politico, Reuters, Bloomberg News, The Economist, Columbia Journalism Review, Guardian U.K., Chicago Sun-Times, Boston Herald, Seattle Times, Toronto Sun, WJR-AM in Detroit and Michigan Public Television's "Off the Record." Demas started her journalism career at The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette, the second-largest newspaper in Iowa, where she specialized in women’s issues and Middle East affairs and covered the 2004 Iowa Presidential caucuses. In 2004, Demas reported from the U.S. Army Base at Ft. Dix, N.J., on units training for the Iraq war.

5 Week Program/ 2012


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Final Debate Schedule 2012

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Research Assignments On Demand

Find week by week assignments under in the File Cabinet, located under the Share Tab.




8-Week Supreme Court Trip/ Parent Chaperon Volunteers


Botsford Hospital Sunday Information


Farmington Library Wednesday Information


East Middle School Teams

8-Week Program Court Room Experience Prepartion Tips





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