The Chicago Debate Commission has provided competitive academic debate programming to over 13,000 students since 1997. Most of our students come from neighborhoods wracked by violence and poverty. In Chicago’s complicated school system, our program is unusual for bringing together students from all kinds of schools (including neighborhood, charter, magnet, selective enrollment, and traditional comprehensive district schools) from all parts of the city. Our students are 76% low-income and 85% students of color and come from across the academic spectrum, including those who start high school as high performers and those who start with academic challenges. For both groups, our debate program meaningfully advances their skills and college readiness. Since 2008, the number of student debaters has grown by 254% in schools with Title I percentages over 85%.
Our students confirm that debate has a positive impact in their lives — it changes the way they view their role in the world, builds confidence, and helps them succeed in ways they never dreamed possible. Read a few of our students' stories below.