Transforming Lives Through Debate

The Baltimore Urban Debate League (BUDL) changes the lives of Baltimore City public elementary, middle and high schools students through participation in team policy debate.  By taking part in debate, students become engaged learners, critical thinkers and leaders who are effective advocates for themselves and their communities. Debate transforms the disengaged learner, those with high rates of absenteeism, delinquency and poor academic performance into confident students who achieve higher test scores, have improved attendance, become school leaders and are more likely to go on to college.

In short, their lives are forever changed.

In the 2013-14 school year, BUDL is engaging close to 1,000 Baltimore City students and 50 teachers in 30 elementary, middle and high schools across the city. BUDL was founded in 1999 with the generous support of the Open Society Institute-Baltimore. Since then, more than 8,000 students have been transformed through debating and BUDL.

The Baltimore Urban Debate League helped me find my place in the world. Before starting debate, my options were very limited and often led to negative outcomes. After completing the program I realized my only limitations were in my mind.”

– Jarrell Anderson, BUDL Alumnus, Baltimore Urban Debate League Elementary/Middle School Program Coordinator

Keiyehn Gray, Michelle Seaberg

A Proven Approach for Students to Achieve And Prepare for Brighter Futures

Independent research conducted in the 2009-2010 year confirms that BUDL helps students to achieve more in school and prepare for better futures. The study found that BUDL debaters:

• Had a 94 percent daily rate of attendance as compared to 88 percent for the general student population

• Scored 88 percent proficient or better on state reading tests as compared to 72 percent of comparison students

• Scored 79 percent proficient or better on state math tests as compared to 62 percent of comparison students

And the more students participate in BUDL, the better they do on standardized tests and in school. Since 2004, more than 85 percent of BUDL’s students have graduated on time and were accepted into colleges across the nation, many receiving full or partial debate scholarships.

Opening a World of Opportunity

BUDL can literally open up a new world of our students. In policy debate students are learning about sophisticated regional, national and international topics of immediate relevance. In the process they discover more about themselves and the globe. They become active and discerning consumers of information. Their worlds open further as they travel to citywide, regional, national and international competitions.

Debate is not just dealing with subjects outside of yourself but also with subjects inside of you too. If more people debated themselves, there would be a lot less fighting, crime and wrongdoing.”

– Prince-Azeem Greene, 5th Grade Debater

Training and Mentoring

Like athletes, students train after school several days a week with BUDL-educated coaches. Debaters work on research, argument building and rhetorical skills while learning the value of team work, how to win and lose with grace, problem solving and respect for other’s opinions.

Selected senior debaters mentor middle school squads for a year, sharing their expertise while developing leadership skills and team responsibility.

This was my first year as a middle school debate coach – it was a one of a kind experience. I got to see my students grow academically as well as in personal confidence and maturity. Every school should have debate for their students.”

– Stacey Geis, debate coach and teacher, Holabird Academy


BUDL debaters take their rhetorical skills to monthly citywide tournaments and participate in competitions throughout the Baltimore region and around the country. BUDL debaters bring home top honors from national and international matches.

Summer Activities

Debate doesn’t take a vacation as students and teachers prepare for debating in the academic year hosting local debate camps and sending students to competitive debate institutes on college campuses across the country.

College Preparation

BUDL’s College Access Program counselors provide year-round college counseling, assistance with college essay writing, entrance test preparation and help with scholarships and financial aid applications.