The Chicago Debate Commission (CDC) and the Chicago Debate League (CDL) honored CAIR-Chicago’s Outreach Coordinator Gerald Hankerson as its 2015 Alum of the Year. Hankerson received this prestigious award at the Citi-Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Debate Championships on Saturday, March 28 at Northwestern University.
Each year, the CDC “honors an alum who has shown commitment to his/her chosen career and/or continued support for the debate community, and who serves as an excellent role model for [its] current students.” Hankerson was selected as this year’s recipient given his “wonderful commitment to debate” and that the Chicago debate community is inspired by his “activism promoting social justice, tolerance and community building through CAIR-Chicago.”
As an alum and an avid supporter of the urban debate movement, Hankerson participated in 15 consecutive seasons and is one of the few alumni that participated in nearly every role possible within the CDL. He began in the CDL’s inaugural year as a student debater at Lindblom Technical High School. After graduating from Lindblom, he continued his active involvement with the league as a judge. Then, in 2005, Hankerson reestablished Lindblom’s debate program, and the following year was asked to become a program development administrator and debate instructor for new or revamped programs at Prosser Career Academy, Clark Magnet High School, and Corliss High School. From 2007 to 2011, Hankerson was the head coach at Prosser, and ended his career consulting with debate programs for two more seasons.
Most outstanding in Hankerson’s tenure as head coach and development administrator was the numerous teams and individual speakers who won top rankings, invitations to special tournaments, and placed as finalists at both conference and city championships. Most notable of those distinctions: Lindblom placed 2nd Place in the Junior Varsity division of the AA Conference Championship in 2006. Prosser won the A Conference Championship in the varsity division in 2008.
In receiving the award, Hankerson remarked how debate was “surprisingly transformative and offered undaunting spirit” in not only the students he worked with, but in his own life. He noted that debate influenced his role at CAIR-Chicago, as well as serving as a board member of Arise Chicago and a community advisory council member at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
In partnership with Chicago Public Schools, the Chicago Debate Commission promotes, facilitates, and runs the Chicago Debate League, encompassing the competitive debate programming in CPS schools. The Chicago Debate League is the largest and most competitively successful of the 18 urban debate leagues around the country, boasting well over 10,000 alumni since its inception.