In the 2015-16 school year:

  • SVUDL expanded from 2 pilot schools to 5 full school partnerships, 2 in East Palo Alto and 3 in East San Jose
  • SVUDL trained 28 teachers to engage underperforming students through debate.
  • 62 debaters from 5 schools participated in an intense week of education and leadership training at the 2015 Summer Institute
  • 100% of SVUDL debaters were low income; 82% were youth of color
  • SVUDL students participated in 4 college access and career pipeline workshops led by accomplished professionals, crafting 10-year plans for a path to academic and career success
  • 100% of seniors graduated; 100% of grads went to college

In 2016-17 school year:

  • SVUDL added three additional school partners
  • 120+ students from 7 schools attended the Summer Institute
  • SVUDL trained 130 teachers
  • 90% of debaters were low-income and 70% were youth of color
  • 24 students were paired with Legal Career Mentors
  • 100% of seniors graduated; 100% of grads went to college

We anticipate these spectacular outcome trends to continue in 2017-18!


Through the rigor and excitement of the smart sport of debate, SVUDL helps low-income youth tap the power of their voices to compete, excel, and change the world. Our programs leverage the success of 19 Urban Debate Leagues across the country, building a transformational model grounded in peer-reviewed research to foster a generation of college graduates, leaders, and innovators.


  • Learning beyond the classroom. Debaters join an exciting competitive community, learning to read, speak, and think critically through weekend tournaments, workshops, and afterschool practices.
  • Academic success. Debaters in Urban Debate Leagues are more likely than their peers to test as college- ready in all subjects, most of all in Reading (74% more likely, English (15%), and Science (27%).
  • College success. More than 95% of urban debaters graduate high school; over 90% of graduates go on to college. Equipped with the skills to succeed, they are 80% more likely to graduate college than their peers.
  • Character and teamwork. Through intense competition, debate teaches students to train hard, take strategic risks, learn from defeat, and work in teams - building the skills they need to succeed in any venue.
  • World-changing ideas. Debaters learn to be leaders and entrepreneurs, using original research and the heat of competition to refine practical new ideas to change their communities and the world. 

National Network and Local Need

The SVUDL draws strength from partnerships with 22 Urban Debate Leagues across the country. Our sister program, the Bay Area Urban Debate League (BAUDL), currently serves over 500 students in 14 schools in Oakland and San Francisco. In more than 30 qualifying schools across Silicon Valley, 30,000 students do not yet have the opportunity to debate.

Make every dollar count

Debaters spend an average of 350 hours per year learning in practice, research, and competition. It costs roughly $2.85 an hour to open this opportunity for one student.

California's underfunded public schools spend nearly three times as much per student. 

We leverage the resources of schools and other partners, along with countless volunteer hours, to stretch the impact of every dollar.