Kassandra (Kassie) Colón (Public Relations Intern & WDI Board Member) was recently named a finalist for the Melissa Maxcy Social Justice Award. A senior and varsity debater for Fort Lauderdale High School, Kassie is certain to leave their mark on their community.

Kassie Picture

Kassie with teammates at the Barkley Forum opening ceremony.

The Melissa Maxcy Social Justice Award is given each year to one student who attends Emory’s Barkley Forum for High Schools who uses portable skills towards the greater good of their community. Emory University forensics has a long history of encouraging students to use their forensics skills to improve society and promote social justice. While the Barkley Forum rewards competitive success, it also values service to others and recognizes students competing in its tournament who have a passion for
social justice work and a desire to continue their gifts and skills to serve others in the their community.

Kassie has exemplified the spirit of the Melissa Maxcy Social Justice Award through their work in and out of debate. Kassie spends their time working at an elementary school inspiring fourth graders to continue the fight for social justice. “Outside my classroom there’s a huge banner we put together that says, ‘Never forget #weremember’ with pictures of important black folk and trans women of color who have been murdered by authorities.”

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Kassie also provides after-school SAT and ACT tutoring for Latin children. They’re currently serving as an interpreter for a student who just immigrated from Puerto Rico. Their activism outside of debate is focused on helping individuals find resources when dealing with homelessness, sexual violence, and other structural barriers to inequality.

In addition to their activism outside of the debate space, Kassie advocates for inclusion within debate. Coached by Hex Larsen and Nicole Danielle Nave (WDI Board Member), Kassie has run arguments that have centered around their own identity and how it relates to institutions. Through this method, Kassie has been able to challenge the oppressive structures within debate. They have introduced underprivileged kids to debate as an outlet for pressures like poverty and discrimination and believes that “a lot of the times that’s debate, because debate helped me.”

Although Kassie Colón is the Florida State Champion, they’re focused on more than just winning ballots. By providing a comforting and encouraging presence at tournaments, Kassie has created a warm and inclusive environment. Kassie is always there to offer a hug or a word of encouragement to anyone who might need it.

While Kassie didn’t win the award, their designation as a finalist is certainly something to be proud of. The debate community is better for having Kassie in it.

Rhian Williams is a WDI 2015 Alumn and a Member of the WDI Board of Directors.  If you have alumni news, please let us know.  We’d love to hear from you!