The St. Louis Urban Debate League (SLUDL) has grown to support thriving extra-curricular policy debate programs in as many as 12 high schools and 3 middle schools within the Saint Louis Public Schools District, as well as expanding to its first non-SLPS public school,  Confluence Preparatory Academy.

Watch this video created by the Citi Foundation that discusses the role of academic debate in students’ lives.

Listen to a profile of SLUDL on the NPR show “St. Louis on the Air” 

SLUDL was founded in 2008 with the purpose of developing and supporting debate programs in under served urban high schools in St. Louis City.  The League works directly with Principals and Teachers within each partnering school to ensure that Debate teams receive proper coaching and instruction, as well as the resources necessary to thrive.

SLUDL is the only organization in St. Louis working to promote the value and need for debate programming in urban schools. We work with a nationwide network of similar Urban Debate Leagues (UDL’s), along with several suburban debate programs in St. Louis County, to provide our high school and middle school students the best opportunities for success through competitive policy debate – the oldest and arguably most rigorous debate format in the nation.

Our Work
The St. Louis Urban Debate League is committed to establishing and growing debate programming within urban schools throughout the metro area.  We fulfill our mission by providing the following:

Teacher-Coach Professional Development. Teachers are at the core of any Urban Debate League, and SLUDL is fortunate to have some incredibly energetic, patient, dedicated teachers who task themselves with learning how to effectively coach debate within their respective schools. In fact, most SLUDL coaches are not former debaters, but understand the value debate programming brings to their students, and ultimately, their broader school community.

Student Workshops. The League assists schools in student recruitment and student training throughout the season. Training includes topic-specific workshops, technical debate lessons, and more. All activities are tailored to fit the wide range of needs and skills among our debaters.

Tournament Administration. Debate tournaments are a central element of our program, giving students an opportunity to exercise their skills in a fun, competitive setting. Over the course of the academic year, SLUDL hosts six competitive debate tournaments, gathering students from all partnering schools. Research shows the direct correlation between the number of tournament rounds a debater competes in, and their motivation to remain actively involved in debate. The more competitive opportunities a debater has throughout the year, the more they are willing to “buy in” to the benefits and value of debate.

Advocacy and Fundraising. The primary goal of SLUDL is to promote debate to our urban schools.  To that end, much of our behind the scenes activity is dedicated to advocating on behalf of new debate programs and initiatives, leveraging school district investments with privately-raised funds, and publicizing the great work our students and teachers are putting into their debate programs.


You & Your Organization Can Support Urban Debate

1) Join the Board of Directors: Members of the board seek to promote debate for urban youth.  They spread the word throughout the community about debate’s impact on urban youth, raise funds to support urban debate, volunteer directly to support debate activities, and generally oversee the health of the organization.  Contact our Program Director at shawnbriscoe@urbandebate.org for more information.

2) Judge at St Louis Urban Debate League Tournaments: SLUDL hosts six tournaments each year.  The tournaments are designed to promote learning for students, kindle their excitement, and serve as an assessment of their hard work.  The organization seeks judges of all experience levels from those who have never seen a formal, academic debate to those who have decades of experience.  We are firm believers that students get the most out of the activity when they learn to communicate (or debate) in front of all types of audiences.  Visit our page for Volunteer Judges to serve in this capacity.

3) Provide Facilities for Tournaments & Workshops:  Each year SLUDL hosts 6 tournaments and several workshops.  Tournaments require approximately 30 classroom/conference room spaces and a large common area where 80-100 people can gather.  Workshops typically require a handful of rooms for breakout sessions and one large area.  Often, the hosts will also provide a meal or meals for the students and staffers.  Over the years, Webster University, McKendree University, Maryville University, and Lindenwood University have graciously provided support of these activities.  Contact our Program Director at shawnbriscoe@urbandebate.org if your organization might be willing to provide space for one of our events.

4) Serve as a Trainer:  SLUDL welcomes direct support of our students in many ways.  During our workshops, we may need experienced debaters or coaches who can teach lessons or organize activities.  Some teams may be interested in recruiting former debaters to serve as volunteer coaches.  Likewise, teacher candidates or individuals without a debate background may be interested in helping students navigate the non-debate related content the students must master.  To serve as a volunteer coach, the individual must meet St Louis Public Schools volunteer requirements to include background checks.  Contact the Program Director at shawnbriscoe@urbandebate.org if you are interested in training our urban youth.

5) Provide Financial Support: Money plays a critical role in allowing our students to participate in the activity whether it be to set the programming of the league or to directly support educational and competitive opportunities.  If you or your organization is interested in providing financial support visit our page for making donations.  Your financial support — whether large or small — has a tremendous impact on young lives:

Amount* Description
$5 Registration fee for one student to attend an invitational tournament in St Louis County
$15 A   10-key timer for use by a debater in competition
$75 Registration fees for one student to attend the NFL national championship tournament
$150 One night’s lodging for up to 4 students at the NFL or CFL national championship tournament
$150 Transportation for 20-40 students to attend a tournament in the St Louis-metro area
$325 Plaques/Trophies for one of our tournaments
$750 Lodging for up to 4 students to attend the NFL or CFL national championship tournament
$1,000 Feeds 75 students and 25 volunteers/coaches during a 1-day competition

*Amounts listed are estimates.  They may vary depending on location, number of students, etc.