At the Denver Urban Debate League (DUDL) our vision is a simple one: that all youth in our community graduate from high school prepared to succeed in college and their careers and to contribute to their communities. DUDL’s programs build valuable academic and life skills that enable students to become engaged learners, critical thinkers, and active citizens who are advocates for themselves and their communities.
Competitive speech and debate has traditionally been an academic activity in which white youths and those with socioeconomic privilege have primarily engaged and succeeded. Recognizing both the lack of access to these activities for youths living in poverty and students of color, and the power of speech and debate to elevate learning, literacy, and life skills which prepare youth to succeed in the information age, community leaders founded the Denver Urban Debate League (DUDL) in 2008 based on a best practices model developed in New York, Atlanta, and Chicago. DUDL’s founding leadership launched the league in collaboration with the National Association for Urban Debate Leagues (NAUDL) with a passionate belief that debate was not just another after school club, but a life-changing trajectory that would have a lasting impact on families in our community.
In 2010 the DUDL became an independent 501 (c) (3) and moved into office space at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law as part of their efforts to diversify the pipeline to the legal profession. DUDL began working exclusively with Denver Public Schools, but as the Denver city center becomes increasingly gentrified, DUDL has expanded the areas DUDL serves based on the areas of greatest need in our community and development of strong partnerships with additional school districts. These indicators led DUDL to begin serving Mapleton Public Schools in 2011, Aurora Public Schools in 2014, and Sheridan Public Schools in 2016.
After piloting the addition of competitive speech programs in 2014, DUDL officially added several competitive speaking events in 2015. Before DUDL was launched, very few schools in our partner school districts offered competitive speech and debate opportunities and these programs relied on the financial support of parents, favoring students and families who could afford to invest in training, entry fees, and transportation. DUDL’s programs are unique in that they fully fund participation to ensure equitable opportunities for all students. DUDL has been recognized as the Non-Profit Organization of the Year (2014) by the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association and as the Outstanding Service Organization of the Year (2017) by the Professional Liability Underwriting Society.