Our Story

Through the rigor and thrill of the academic sport of debate, SVUDL helps low-income youth tap the power of their voices to compete, excel, and change the world. A coalition of local educators and community leaders founded the group in June 2014 to fill a startling gap in opportunities in the high-poverty schools of San Jose and the Peninsula. SVUDL draws the best strategies and resources from a national network of 22 successful Urban Debate Leagues to address local need.

Initially working under the fiscal sponsorship of the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues, SVUDL reached out to schools, districts, and community partners to assess the demand for debate as a solution for students who have become disengaged from academics. The enthusiasm of their response has been overwhelming. The wave of demand inspired us to grow quickly: we began two pilot programs in August 2014, launched three more programs in Fall 2015, three more in Fall 2016, and now have well over 150 students building strong voices through debate. In spring of 2015, SVUDL received 501(c)3 tax exempt status and became a fully independent nonprofit. In Fall 2019, we will serve 12 schools and change the lives of 500 students by directly involving them in tournament debate, and many more through courses and workshops.