Hoboken High School Debate Team Excels

Hoboken High School Debate Team Excels Locally and Internationally in Competitions
Hoboken High School Debate Team Excels Locally and Internationally in Competitions

Congratulations to the Hoboken High School Debate Team for an impressive five awards collected in Madrid, Spain for the 2019 Harvard Model Congress Europe Conference. The HMCE Conference hosts schools from across the globe in one of the world’s premiere government simulation competitions. First time participant Serena Roman won an Honorable Mention for her work in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions Committee, where she authored and lobbied for several pieces of legislation including her bill requiring civic education curriculum in schools. Arianna Santiago received an Honorable Mention as part of the Presidential Cabinet as she advised the House and Senate about several topics including bio-chemical warfare. Freshman Andrew Castlen impressed the Harvard Committee Chairs earning an Honorable Mention Award for his tenacity in the House Intelligence Committee and his bill on Data Protection. Gianaly Santiago won an Award of Excellence for her United Nations resolution requiring stricter limits on child labor. Rebecca Weintraub also won an Award of Excellence for her resolution on education for indigenous people. Five out of a team of twelve won awards, making Hoboken High School one of the top achieving schools at the conference.

Junior Rebecca Weintraub reflects after her first Harvard Model Congress competition, “I think I came out of it with more confidence in myself, our team and our school. We were all very nervous as we looked at the list of prestigious international prep schools competing against us. But we put our best foot forward and we dominated the competition.”

Freshman Gabriel Melendez said, “It was not about winning the awards; it was about meeting the people. It widened my scope of opportunity and ideas due to the international environment. At the start of the school year, I couldn’t imagine working at this level but I knew I wanted to be better. I worked hard in practice and at other competitions and made it happen.”

Angelene Veloce, senior, predicts a bright future for the program, “I am proud of the entire team. The freshmen on this team are very promising; they excite me to see the future of this team. As a freshman, I was quite timid and spoke only once or twice at the conference in San Francisco; my sophomore year I was able to pass a bill. Both times, I had studied my briefings, but for this competition, I dove much deeper into the briefing topics, not because I had to, but because I wanted to. That’s what is so great about this program, the growth is something you carry throughout your entire life. The confidence with public speaking is something that I will keep forever.“

Advisers Paul Huggins and Steve D’Bernado consider their team members to be a triple threat: they think, speak and write, at the highest level. The team’s motto is “I am an argument for academic achievement.” Under the guidance of these two teachers, the debate program has grown from one competition, Harvard Model Congress, to three with the addition in recent years of Mock Trial and Model United Nations. This year, students began preparing even before school started in September, attending a week-long summer debate camp at Hoboken High. The extra preparation helped to initiate and sustain the team’s momentum.

This year was only their second time at the New Jersey Bar Association Mock Trial Competition, yet they defeated McNair Academic High School and Bayonne High School to advance to the county finals, before ultimately losing to five-time winner Union City High School. The Mock Trial program requires in-depth analysis of a legal case. Students examined evidence, learned legal procedures and terminology, rehearsed arguments, questioned witnesses and ultimately competed in a simulated trial. Students presented their cases at the Hudson County Superior Courthouse, before Hudson County Judges, who evaluate their performance and determine the victors.


Fifteen Hoboken High School students attended the Model United Nations conference at St. Peter's University. At the Model United Nations students research and consider issues from various cultural contexts to draft and pass resolutions that address global concerns from an international diplomatic perspective. This year Hoboken students represented Spain and addressed issues such as the refugee crisis, women’s access to reproductive healthcare and the militarization of space. Amanda Hichez and Denise Peguero won Outstanding Delegate for their work in the Social Humanitarian Cultural Committee where they wrote and passed a resolution protecting the rights and safety of the LGBTQI community across the globe. Andrew Parades and Rebecca Weintraub won Outstanding Delegates for their resolution aimed at providing a safe haven to women who have been threatened with or become victims of violence in member states. Angelene Veloce and Serena Roman won Honorable Mention for their resolution addressing the need for refugee vaccinations to prevent the reemergence of diseases like the measles.

All of the simulation programs demand a high level of academic commitment, preparation and performance, requiring students to master a large amount of content beyond their regular high school curriculum. Students research and discuss issues to gain a deeper understanding of their position and prepare effective counter arguments. The program demands mental agility, confidence and poise. Once a student begins to compete at this level, there is no limit to what they can accomplish. Senior Gianaly Santiago said about the recent Madrid competition, “You can look at each of us and see that we are different people than we were when we arrived here.”

Congratulations to Amanda Hichez, Denise Peguero, Gianaly Santiago, Serena Roman, Angelene Veloce, and Andrew Paredes and to our veteran team members Arianna Santiago and Giselle Quinones and a special recognition goes to the outstanding first time performance of team members Rebecca Weintraub, Gabriel Melendez, Andrew Castlen and Davion Delgado.

Whether it’s getting to Mock Trial county finals, winning awards at Model United Nations, or receiving international recognition at Harvard Model Congress Europe, the Redwing Debate Team is soaring and reaching new heights.
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