City College debate team going to national finals ranked No. 1 in the region 

City College of San Francisco's debate team is going to the country's most prestigious debate tournament ranked number one among all four-year and two-year colleges in the region, college officials said.

The region includes all schools in California, Nevada and Hawaii including the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Southern California.

The tournament is April 3 to April 6 at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore.

Last and this year the City College team has taken top spots in tournaments and qualified for the finals for the second year in the row. Some of the most elite colleges in the country will be at this year's tournament.

The six team members have eschewed traditional debate format and instead focus on delivering their own original oratory and existing literature, called the Oral Interpretation format, to a panel of judges.

College officials said the City College team frequently is made up of students from the most underrepresented backgrounds. The officials said this year's team has a unique voice that can shake an audience of private-school teams.

"I think we shock people in a lot of these tournaments," team member Diana Norton said in a statement.

Many on the team are the first in their family to go to college.

Five of the six team members came to City College from South San Francisco High School. They chose City College because of Nathan Steele and Robert Hawkins, faculty coaches and former champion debaters. Hawkins also teaches at South San Francisco High.

"The coaches were the reason we came to CCSF," team member Jeff Antonio said in a statement.

"The fact that these students can rise to the level of a Harvard or Berkeley is remarkable," CCSF spokesman Jeff Hamilton said in a statement. "It's proof that success is not a function of the color of your skin, your economic background, your cultural heritage or your sexual orientation."

Hamilton said it's about having access to education that's accessible and affordable.

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