Help SVUDL Students During Tournament Season

October 2018

Dear Friends,

We hope you had a wonderful summer! We wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for your past support of the Silicon Valley Urban Debate League (SVUDL) and to ask you to consider making a gift to help our Back to School campaign.

As you know, Silicon Valley is a region of stark contrasts. On the one hand, we have the unprecedented wealth generation fueled by the high-tech industry, and on the other we have persistent and glaring poverty literally next door to some of the most affluent zip codes in the world. In this epicenter of innovation and prosperity in the United States, thousands of students either drop out of school or fall through the cracks.

Students born in low-income zip codes who attend under resourced schools have fewer and fewer opportunities to reach their potential. The extracurricular and enrichment activities that so many of us take for granted are nearly out of reach for many low-income students in San Mateo and Santa Clara Counties.  And yet those activities, including debate, can often alter the trajectory of a student’s academic, personal and social development in ways that transform students, their families and their communities.

The national conversation on career development and 21st century skills has generated a mandate for programs that help all students build mastery in creativity and innovation, critical thinking and problem solving, collaboration, and communication. For low-income students, overcrowded classrooms and traditional educational approaches have not met this need. Seeking a rigorous program that inspires students to excel, many schools have turned to competitive debate. The trouble with debate as historically practiced is that it has served only a small population of very privileged students. However, since 1987, urban debate leagues have worked with hundreds of teachers and over 30,000 students to open debate to new populations.

We launched SVUDL in 2014 to try to fill the opportunity gap faced by low-income students.  This year, SVUDL’s “back to school” includes partnerships with 11 schools and organizations serving low income students. We are looking to raise $50,000 to support our new student debaters for the tournament season that kicks off on this coming Saturday, October 13 in Silicon Valley and that runs all the way until mid-June 2019 when a national tournament hosted by the National Speech & Debate Association takes place in Dallas. Your support will ensure that we have everything we need to support our students, most importantly transportation to tournaments which take place on weekends and which many of our students could not attend without our resources and support.

Why do we do this?  Here are just a few examples of how debate has been positively shaping SVUDL students: 

  • Vonisha, who participated in SVUDL at Eastside Prep in East Palo Alto said, "Debate helps me have a stronger stand on what I believe is right.” She mixed rigorous research with personal experience of inequality in her family’s Menlo Park neighborhood. 

  • Jacob said his inspiration to debate comes because, "I have seen too many of my old friends end up in jail or dead because they did not have the same opportunities."

  • Another student, Brisa, is the first to admit her thirst for argument got her into trouble in the past, but her teachers now see her as a rising star, thanks to debate.

SVUDL’s work has been recognized by major media outlets and was one of the recipients of the highly competitive Playmaker Grants given by the 50 Fund on the occasion of the 50th Super Bowl game in 2016.

Will you help us by making a gift to our Back to School campaign? No gift is too large (!) and if you want to double the impact of your gift, SVUDL is also eligible for corporate matching gifts.

We have hired a new debate coach, bringing our full-time coaching roster to four, and we have added seven new partner schools and programs for the new school year, including College Track and Cristo Rey San Jose Jesuit High. With just little over one month into the new school year, we have already had a record number of students sign up for SVUDL! Your support will let these students know that their future can be brighter than their present circumstances, and that there are caring people in Silicon Valley rooting for their success and cheering them on all the way.

Please consider supporting our students and their potential today with your donation to SVUDL.

Thank you,

SVUDL Board of Directors