It’s more than anecdotal: Peer-reviewed analysis demonstrates that high school debate enhances student engagement and academic success. We would argue from personal experience that it also offers social benefits and an all-important network of achievers. A study in the Chicago Public Schools found debaters “3.1 times more likely to graduate from high school than non-debaters, and more likely to reach the college-readiness benchmarks on the … ACT. This association was similar for both low-risk and at-risk students.” Participation in Lincoln-Douglas national circuit debate, specifically, while not formally studied, exposes participants to subjects, like philosophy and constitutional law, not usually taught in high schools, and acquaints them with intellectually active adults and students from all over the country.
Access Debate was founded in 2013 by Daisy Massey, a debater from Bethesda, Maryland’s Walt Whitman High School, now studying philosophy and pre-med at Yale (class of ‘19). She set out initially with the goal of helping one or maybe three debaters with scholarship support. But thanks to the willingness of volunteer coaches and generosity of donors and several national tournaments that waived or reduced fees, Access Debate’s first class numbered 24 by the close of the 2014-15 season, including one student who qualified to and attended the national Tournament of Champions in Kentucky, all of them low-income as measured by eligibility for benefits (like free school lunches) under the Federal Title I provision. Access Debate enrolled 38 students for the 2015-16 season. The organization is guided by a supportive board experienced in business, education non-profits, and debate, and run by an all-volunteer staff of dedicated debate alumni and coaches.
Access Debate was founded to respond to the dearth of low-income students able to participate in national-circuit Lincoln-Douglas debate. Lincoln-Douglas debate arguments often focus on social justice and equal access, yet L-D debate itself is so costly at the national level – so-called “travel tournaments” – that only students of means can participate. Access Debate exists to bring valuable new voices to those events by coaching and funding determined low-income debaters. Every Access Debater is matched with a top-tier volunteer coach and encouraged to attend tournaments with the benefit of travel assistance and stipends. Our mission is to help them get there and reap the obvious benefits — intellectual, academic, social and professional — of involvement in national L-D debate.
Yes! To the fullest extent of the law: Access Debate is an all-volunteer Federal 501(c)3 non-profit organization, EIN 46-4027259. No goods or services are provided in exchange for donations. Access Debate is funded exclusively by donations from individuals. Because overhead is near zero, your entire donation goes toward supporting debaters and bringing new voices to Lincoln-Douglas debate.