Oakland teen debates his way from the streets to Cal


Leonard Irving-Thomas hones his debating skills. (ABC photo)

A national debate champion from Oakland is slated to attend UC Berkeley in the fall. But he wasn’t always at the top of his game.

As ABC reported, just a few years ago, Leonard Irving-Thomas had only a 1.7 GPA and was dealing drugs on the streets of Oakland. His parents are divorced, and when he stayed at his dad’s, he said, there wasn’t always enough to eat. Debate team meetings at Skyline High School offered food, so he tried out — and discovered his knack for winning arguments.

Since then, he’s turned his life around. Now 17 and a senior, he has a 4.0 GPA and beat out thousands of competitors to become the 2015 Urban Debater of the Year, so named by the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues. UC Berkeley took notice and, come fall, Irving-Thomas is headed to Cal, where he plans to debate.

To see Irving-Thomas in action, check out his nomination video for the debate award. Visit the ABC website to read the whole story.