Edie Canter, Executive Director

As Executive Director, Edie Canter leads the Chicago Debate Commission’s strategic visioning, planning, Board relations, fundraising, administration, operations, and external relations, and provides executive supervision over program work.  With experience in development, advocacy, outreach, communications and organizational and individual management, Edie has presided over unprecedented growth in the number of organizational supporters since she began with the organization in September 2011. Previously, Edie served as Director of Development and Communications at Leadership Greater Chicago, principal of Persuasion Plus and principal of Law Offices of Edith F. Canter. Prior to transitioning into the nonprofit sector, Edie practiced law full-time for 15 years, with a concentration in complex and class action litigation.

David Song, Director of Programs

David returned to the Chicago Debate Commission in June 2015 to lead its dedicated program staff. From August 2008 to March 2013, David worked for the CDC as Assistant, then Associate Director of Programming after eight years of experience leading successful debate programs at Evanston Township and Oak Park River Forest High Schools. During his tenure, he was deeply involved in all aspects of league operations and worked closely with motivated teachers and talented students to double the size of the Chicago Debate League. David has directed public debates featured at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Smithsonian Institute, and DuSable Museum of African American History. He has also held statewide leadership positions in debate with the Illinois High School Association and Illinois Speech and Theater Association. From 2013-15, David served as Director of Programs for the Minnesota Urban Debate League, where he took leadership responsibility for all aspects of program-building, training, and operations during a period of major growth.

Marquis Ard, Program Officer for School Support

Marquis was born and raised in Chicago and has become one of the leading debate minds in the country. He began his coaching experience as an assistant coach in the CDL at Marshall High School and coached for the University of California Berkeley and currently coaches Georgetown University at the collegiate level. Marquis received college debate scholarships and was among the top debaters in the country during his college career. Marquis debated for the University of Oklahoma after finishing as top speaker at the CEDA national championship, a two-time first-round bid recipient recognizing the top 16 teams in the country attending the NDT, and Quarterfinals and 7th speaker at the National Debate Tournament. He is known for his innovative work in critical debate, incorporating scholarship on anti-blackness.

Amanda DeWitt, Donor Relations Manager

Amanda DeWitt joined the Chicago Debate Commission in December 2017 in a new position, Donor Relations Manager. Amanda brings years of fundraising, development, community advocacy, and communications experience to this new roll. She is excited to put her skills to work to help the CDC continue and expand its work to empower youth to find their voice. Previously, she was the Director of Development and Communications for a Unitarian Universalist seminary in Chicago where she honed her skills in not for profit advancement. She is passionate about relationship building, emotional labor, working to end injustice, and her family.

April Garrett, Volunteer & Outreach Coordinator

April Garrett comes to the Chicago Debate Commission with over 10 years of experience in volunteer administration. April has managed volunteers at various social service nonprofits including Little Brothers – Friends of the Elderly, Sarah’s Circle and Howard Brown Health. She has presented at the Illinois Conference on Volunteer Administration and is an active member of the Association for Volunteer Administrators.

SantaLucia Hernandez, Program Officer for School Support

Lucia Hernandez is an alumna of the Chicago Debate League. She debated three years for Kelly High School and involved with judging and coaching before joining the CDC in July 2016. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a bachelors in International and Chican/Latin@ Studies in 2013. Upon graduation, she served as an AmeriCorps member at Gads Hill Center and a facilitator for the Teen Outreach Program. She is excited to help build and sustain the debate programs throughout Chicago that are providing an opportunity for students to find their power and voice.

Christine Horst, Program Officer for Tournament Operations

Christine has been a part of the CDC in various roles since February 2013. She has been actively and continuously involved in the Chicago debate community for the past 12 years, first as a debater, then as a coach while she was getting a B.A. in Psychology and Sociology from Northwestern University, and now as a member of the programming staff of the CDC. She has coached debate at numerous schools in Chicago including her alma mater, Lane Tech. In her personal life, she is passionate about the ethical treatment of animals and the social equality of women.

Diana Jackson, Office Manager & Bookkeeper

Diana joined CDC in August 2016. She graduated with her Bachelors of Science in Accounting in 2008 from University of Illinois-Chicago and later graduated with her Masters of Business Administration from National Louis-University.  She brings over 10 years of experience in Accounting to the position. In her personal time she loves watching her daughter play softball.

Imran Makani, Development Associate & Grant Writer

Imran is a proud alumnus of the Chicago Debate League and credits debate with shaping the person he is today. Imran got hooked on debate in the early 2000s as a student at Whitney Young High School. While studying philosophy at DePaul University, he stayed involved with the League as a coach, helping to qualify five teams to the Tournament of Champions and working with budding debate teams at several under-served CPS schools. Since 2009, he has worked regularly as a CDL tournament director and as a senior instructor at the Chicago Debate Summer Institute. Imran took on his current role in Development at the CDC in December 2016, following four years of fundraising experience at Equip for Equality, a legal clinic for people with disabilities in Illinois. Based on his experiences both as a student and as a mentor in the CDL, Imran believes passionately in the power of debate to engage, inspire and equip urban students to pursue lives of thinking and advocacy.

Mandela Okere, Program Officer for School Support

Mandela Okere joined the CDC in August 2015 after graduating from DePaul University with a Master’s degree in Social and Cultural Foundations in Education. He is an alumnus of the Chicago Debate League, debating at Lane Tech High School for three years and coaching there for four. He has also coached with Alcott Elementary, McCutcheon Elementary, Amundsen High School and started the debate program at Leif Ericson Elementary. His academic work has been on connecting communities in service to its youth. Mandela comes from a debate family; all three of his siblings debate in Chicago Public Schools.

Willa Voss, Development and Communications Manager

Willa blends a non-profit and political background, with a Masters in Social Work (MSW) from University of Southern California, concentrating in community organizing and non-profit management. Willa spent years working and volunteering with agencies delivering direct services, including Project Return, a nonprofit devoted to reentry services for people recently released from prison with a felony or serious misdemeanor. Willa’s experience working directly with affected populations pushed her into the MSW program, which provided an opportunity to combine her passion for service and social justice with macro social work skills like strategic planning, program evaluation, and advocacy. Willa also has experience as a fundraiser through her most recent job at a consulting firm specializing in political fundraising and nonprofit development. A native of Chicago, Willa has a B.A. from Gonzaga University, and spent a summer studying comparative psychology at a chimpanzee sanctuary in Zambia.