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Can You Sing, Act, Dance or ......Debate?

Austin Dean Ashford in a short from Black Book

Welcome to Melvin Tolson High School—it's summer school, it's hot, the barbwire fence is fixed, and a young African American boy has been shot, leaving his group of friends reeling from the loss and wondering if their voices can ever be heard. Enter Austin Dean Ashford, a former Great Debater, to teach a master class on public speaking and challenge this group of boys to speak out and give voice to their hopes and fears.  Filled with pressing issues, inspiring characters, and graced with comic flourishes, this one-person dramedy debates what happens to young minds when our educational spaces begin to resemble a prison more than school and a place to learn and grow.

Austin used his high school debate success to earn a place on the celebrated Wiley College debate team, where he won 21 titles in national competitions among elite universities.  In graduate school, Mr. Ashford pursued solo theater writing and performing with Black Book, a play about a high school debate team.  Black Book earned him top honors at the Kennedy Center for American Theater Festival (2019) among his other awards.  He completed his MFA at the University of Arkansas and is currently studying for his Ph.D. in Fine Arts at Texas Tech.


The lesson here is that colleges are interested in talent beyond academics.  Students with professional ambitions in music, forensics, and drama are assigned a consultant in these fields to meet the qualifications of conservatories and universities that excel in the area of their ambitions.  For students who have professional counsel in their urban youth orchestras, debate teams, and theater troupes, du Pont Youth focuses on the mechanics of completing applications, pursuing financial aid, and support for the first year of college.


For students without professional ambitions, email  We will use a consultant to design a plan for students to use as part of their college application.

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