Interested in our roots? Read on for information about our evolution from BFL to BEST and to see our growth over the last five years.
BEST Now: 2017-2018
We are looking forward to another exciting and inspiring academic year ahead. Follow our website for news about growth, achievements and impact!
BFL is Born
Before we were BEST, we were the Bulgarian Forensics League, or BFL. BFL was started by six Fulbright English Teaching Assistants in the winter of 2012. The idea was simple: give Bulgarian high school students a platform for intelligent debate and creative expression, in English. Help students develop their speech and debate skills, we thought, and they will develop much more: critical thinking skills, creativity, confidence, and leadership. BFL’s first tournament in April 2013 at the American University of Blagoevgrad featured six schools and approximately 100 participants.
In the summer of 2013, BFL was awarded a U.S. State Department grant from the Alumni Innovation Engagement Fund in order to expand and continue the project. In the 2013-2014 academic year, BFL hosted three additional national tournaments, held coach and judge training sessions throughout the year, reached over 20 schools and over 300 students, and qualified and funded three Bulgarian high school students to compete in the 2014 NSDA National Finals in Kansas.
Representing Bulgaria at the 2014 NSDA National Finals in Kansas,
from left to right: Nia Docheva (Oratory), Claire Sagstuen (Chaperone),
Georgi Dumanov and Katherine Krem (Duo Interpretation)
BFL Becomes BEST
In 2014, we became a registered non-profit and changed our name to the BEST (Bulgarian English Speech and Debate Tournaments) Foundation.
BFL is reborn as BEST
Since then, BEST has grown tremendously. We hosted 4 tournaments in the 2014-2015 academic year, with an average of 25 participating schools, over 300 student competitors, and nearly 20 student volunteers per tournament. Each tournament engaged nearly 100 adults as coaches, judges, or chaperones. We also qualified and funded seven students to compete in the 2015 NSDA National Finals in Dallas, Texas. In total, we reached over 500 participants from more than 30 schools. Our Student Ambassadors Program engaged more than 30 high school students from all over Bulgaria receiving mentorship to lead their teams and the larger BEST community.
During the 2015-2016 academic year, BEST grew even bigger! In our third year of existence BEST hosted a total of eight tournaments: six regional tournaments, our annual U.S. Qualifier and our end-of-year National Tournament in Sofia. We also increased our community engagement with six regional coaches’ trainings for Fulbright ETAs and Bulgarian teachers alike. In addition, we developed our online coaching resources and provided more opportunities for our most qualified students to compete abroad. We sent four students to the NSDA National Finals in Salt Lake City, Utah. Also, for the first time, our students represented Team Bulgaria at the Heart of Europe International Debate Tournament in Olomouc, Czech Republic. We continued to look for ways BEST can further develop our students’ English speech and debate skills, both domestically and internationally.
With sixteen tournaments and three years under our belts, 2016-2017 was our best year yet! We unrolled a “Bigger, Better, BEST!” by restructuring our regional tournament model to create larger competitions. We hosted a total of six tournaments: our annual U.S. Qualifier and National Tournaments, as well as four regional tournaments (two each in our East and West regions). Doing so allowed students to compete at the Novice and Varsity levels and gave students the chance to meet more of their peers from across the country. We also expanded our resources for students by increasing our internship program from two to five, further developed our Student Ambassadors program comprising of 31 student leaders, and laid the foundation for our growing alumni network.
The summer of 2017 was certainly one for the books! We sent a delegation of 6 talented and dedicated students to compete in the NSDA National Tournament in Birmingham, Alabama, and 8 students formed the next generation of Team Bulgaria, competing at the Heart of Europe Debating Tournament in Olomouc, Czech Republic. This year we will continue with our very successful East and West Regional Tournaments model, as well as hold a National tournament in the spring. Four coaches’ trainings, a Student Ambassadors retreat, and a growing partnership with the Sofia Debate Association (SDA) show our commitment to strengthening our community, and we are very excited to see what this year will bring for our students and organization!