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October 18, 2021

For information on enrollment and registration at Notre Dame, please visit the admissions section of our website here.

Notre Dame Prep debate earns accolades from speech and debate organization as the state's most successful in 2020-2021.

Shown last year as eighth graders, current Notre Dame Prep freshmen Isabelle Gumma, left, and Lindsay Tomaszewski are in the quarterfinal round of the 2020 "Big Questions" debate with judge Brandon Jezdimir, who is the principal of Notre Dame Middle School. Gumma eventually finished first when the debate concluded. This year's "Big Questions" Debate will be held Nov. 12.

Notre Dame Preparatory School was notified this month that it had received the 2020-2021 Leading Chapter Award from the National Speech and Debate Association for the state of Michigan. This award, exclusively for NDPMA's upper school, comes after several years of Notre Dame Middle School holding down the position as the largest and most successful middle school program in the U.S. 

According to J. Scott Wunn, executive director of the NSDA, the honor for Notre Dame's upper school is the highest recognition a high school can receive in its state from the National Speech and Debate Association. 

"Only the top school in accumulated members and degrees per district earns this designation each year, and each school must wait at least five years before being eligible again," he said. "Out of more than 3,000 member schools nationwide, Notre Dame Prep is one of only 108 to receive the Leading Chapter Award."

In November 2020, then-ND middle schooler Christian Sohm, left, debates Sehaj Gill (virtually) as Head of School Andy Guest, who volunteered as a judge, looks on.

In a news release announcing the award, Wunn also said the honor reflects 347 members and degrees over 15 years. He said it's also a testament to the great work by LeAnne Schmidt, Notre Dame's longtime debate and forensics coach and a language arts and U.S. history teacher in the middle school.

"In that time, several hundred students have been taught communication, critical thinking, creativity and collaboration skills through speech and debate," Wunn added. "The Leading Chapter Award serves as an indication of your relentless dedication to these students and to speech and debate education. Leanne, your efforts truly embody our mission to empower youth. Congratulations on this remarkable achievement!" 

Schmidt recently was named chair of the NSDA Michigan District. Now, as speech and debate activities are beginning to ramp up in schools across the country, Schmidt will have her hands full as she prepares for the Nov. 18 eighth grade Big Questions Debate, which also serves to help fund the overall participation of the middle school in the NSDA throughout the school year.

"The topic for this year's Big Questions Debate should be a particularly interesting one because students must prepare arguments on both sides," Schmidt said. "The topic is 'On balance, societies benefit from religious belief and practice.' This event also serves to provide the opportunity for our entire student body to benefit from membership in the National Forensic League, allowing students to earn points for every classroom or community speech, as well as for competitions."

For information on enrollment and registration at Notre Dame, please visit the admissions section of our website here.

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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame Preparatory School enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All three schools are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the National Association of Independent Schools. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school’s home page at