Jun 02
A Night Building an Intellectual Community, the 7th Annual Awards Gala


On behalf of the Bay Area Urban Debate League staff and Board of Directors, I would like to express our sincere gratitude and thanks for the outpouring of support for the 7th Annual Awards Gala. The Bay Area Urban Debate League cannot continue – or grow – its outreach to low-income public schools through competitive debate teams without your support. ​As a community, we raised $99,000 to assist and support 350 Bay Area youth participating in the smart sport of debate.

Your participation and gifts have allowed BAUDL to offer specialty coaching to young people that is typically only found in private schools. The high intensity and complicated arguments made by youth in our varsity programming pushes their college readiness skills well above their non-debate peers. We can't have this level of programming without our community.  

Over the last year, Bay Area philanthropy has achieved so much. BAUDL is the preeminent California urban debate league because we invest in youth at the highest levels of debate competition, while simultaneously introducing 350 young people annually to the art of debate. The end-point of deep intellectual and economic investment in the academic success of low-income youth has been two-fold: first, BAUDL is the 2017 Urban Debate National Champions; and second, BAUDL seniors are graduating and matriculating to the universities/colleges of their choice. ​

At this year's awards dinner, Yolanda Jackson, Executive Director of the Bar Association of San Francisco, Christine Harris, reigning Urban Debate National Champion and UC, Berkeley class of 2021, and Chris Hollinger, BAUDL Hero & partner at O'Melveny & Myers LLP, were recognized for living the mission of the Bay Area Urban Debate League. 

Yolanda Jackson, BAUDL Great Debater and keynote speaker, works tirelessly for an equitable and just Bay Area. Her work with under-served communities is an inspiration to all those in her presence. Ms. Jackson gave top BAUDL debaters advice about building a future law degree. In her keynote, Yolanda urged the audience to overcome their unconscious racial bias and make connections with young people of color so giving them insider networks that are critical for their future success. DaCobi Anderson, Skyline High School alumni, was so inspired by Ms. Jackson that he made sure to leave the gala with her card in his pocket. 

We extend our gratitude to this year's lead sponsors, The Julia Burke Foundation, John & Nina Cobb, the Snyder Family, and the Silicon Valley Urban Debate League. We are also appreciative of sponsorship from High Flying Foods, Latham & Watkins, Lex Machina, Kaiser Permanente, the Stuart Foundation, Alameda-Contra Costa Trial Lawyers' Association, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, and Derby, McGuiness & Goldsmith.  The Bay Area Urban Debate League would not be possible with the support of 2017 Gala Committee, including Amber Yearwood, Deirdre Roney, Leah Castella, Doreen Bracamontes and Andy Greos. 

We will continue to build on this year's success with the support of our friends and community with a renewed commitment to the Bay Area Urban Debate League over the months ahead, starting with our free summer debate camp available to all low-income high school and middle school youth. There's so much more we can accomplish if we do it together.


Dec 01
Giving Tuesday Raises over $11,000!

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Giving Tuesday is a day when thousands of people come together to support their favorite charities. We couldn't be more grateful for our generous donors who came together to raise $11,230 in one day for BAUDL debate programming! That's enough to fund an entire BAUDL high school tournament AND middle school tournament, providing this valuable experience for 180 students!

We are blown away by the support that our community continues to show and are honored to be surrounded by people who care so deeply about the education of young minds. Thank you to everyone who has given, will give, and to all of you who help make the BAUDL community so strong!

Nov 28
5 Reasons to give to BAUDL this December
Meet Glen.jpg


At Glen's very first debate ​​tournament, he placed in the bottom and was disheartened. His team at Westlake Middle School was very small - just him and one other student. After the tournament, Glen returned to his school, became a leader and rallied his peers, building his team to 6 strong. 

The morning of the Spring Fling tournament, Glen was the first person at the school, arriving even before the staff! When his teammates showed up, he told BAUDL Executive Director Toni Nielson, "We have a team now, and we have been practicing!" This picture is from the awards ceremony when Glen placed in the top 2 of the whole tournament. Glen was determined to improve his speaking skills and we are sure that he will continue to grow as a student leader.

 Meet Diego.jpg


Debate refuses the anti-intellectual turn in the US. Being smart is awesome! Diego entered high school with a 1.69 GPA. He said, "School wasn't for me. It was for nerds." His mother dropped him off at summer debate camp and made him join the Fremont debate team. 

Diego soon learned that debate was exciting and different from the rest of school; before he knew it, Diego was hooked on debate! His GPA shot up and he is now studying law at UC, Berkeley. This image is from Diego's first day at his summer law internship.


Meet Max.jpg


Zhanchong "Max" joined debate only five years after moving to the United States. Max struggled initially because his English was behind, but after one year of debate, that changed dramatically. Max continued to improve and by his senior year, Max was ranked in the top 25 debate teams in the nation!

Last school year, Max and his debate partner became the first team in history to qualified to the elite Tournament of Champions from an Oakland public school!


Meet Jontae.jpg


When she joined the debate team at Aspire Lionel Wilson, Jontae was failing almost every class. She was aggressive and reading below her grade level. Jontae tried to solve her problems with her fists. She was actually required to join debate to pass a class. 

Jontae took home 1st place speaker at her very first tournament and just like that, she was a debater. Debate was an outlet for Jontae; she channeled her aggressiveness into advocacy. With the confidence of a champion debater, Jontae has also made a path of success as a young scholar; where once she struggled to keep up with her coursework, she rose to the top of her class. Jontae is now studying nursing and debating for San Francisco State University.



 Meet Mya.jpg​​


BAUDL young people are going to change the world – you heard it here.

Meet the Program Director of the Bay Area Urban Debate League, Mya Whitaker! She was a debater at Skyline; now she is staff. This organization is run by its alumni, because they love it.


When asked to describe herself in high school, Mya will tell you that prior to debate she was a fighter. Debate was the method that Mya used to improve her social skills. According to Mya, "I realized I was going to lose all of my opportunities." 

Mya found debate and decided to use words instead of fists. Now Mya is an active community advocate and college graduate with her eye on running for the Oakland School Board, and eventually Congress. "I just want to give us a seat at the table. The real change is trying to impact policies and laws, that directly influence our outcomes."


Oct 28
Oakland City Council Honors BAUDL

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​​The Oakland City Council passed a Resolution on October 18th 2016 honoring the community service of BAUDL and the success of Oakland youth. They unanimously signaled support for debate in Oakland and appreciation for the hard work of the students, teachers, staff, board, and community members of the Bay Area Urban Debate League.​ 

BAUDL has supported thousands of students in the city of Oakland as they work on their path from high school to college. 95% of BAUDL debaters graduate compared to the Oakland average of 60%. Recent data shows 84% of BAUDL's Oakland debaters matriculate to college. The power of the league in Oakland is demonstrated annually in the lives of young people who are making an impact from first league champion, now college graduate and program director Mya Whitaker, to 2015 White House intern Natassija Jordan and recent Skyline graduate Max Li, who started this fall at UC, Davis on full-scholarship. 

We thank the city of Oakland, and Councilmember Dan Kalb, for their recognition and look forward to serving thousands more in Oakland. 

Aug 31
W. Kamau Bell, Great Debater 2016, & the BAUDL Gala

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On June 1st, the BAUDL community had a blast at the Annual Awards Gala! The photos for the BAUDL Gala are up on the BAUDL Facebook page and on our website.

Our deepest thanks to W. Kamau Bell, his partner, Melissa, and his mother, Janet, for attending. Kamau took a moment to celebrate "a room full of nerds" while he advocated for social justice and hard conversations. BAUDL applauds Kamau's racial and gender justice work to make the world a better place. He is having the tough conversations we all need to have. 

BAUDL honored Alan Fox with the BAUDL Hero Award. Alan has offered his advocacy and commitment to BAUDL since its founding in 2008. We are grateful and humbled by his belief in a world made better through debate. Thank you Alan.

Finally, congratulations to BAUDL Visionary Award winner and San Francisco State University 1st year student, Jontae Henry! Jontae put her life on a new trajectory after joining debate at Aspire Lionel Wilson; her grades went up and so did her college ambitions. We are proud to call her BAUDL alumni.

Such a fun night wouldn't be as magical if it didn't also advance the cause of education equity. After an amazing night of laughter and love, the BAUDL Gala raised more than $75,000 for debate programs in the San Francisco Bay Area! On behalf of BAUDL and the youth we serve, thank you to everyone who attended. 

Jun 01
Middle School League Starts Youth Early

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The launch of the BAUDL Middle School League was a resounding success. In partnership with the Rupe Foundation and Titus Foundation, as well as generous BAUDL 500 donors, the leauge grew our pilot program from three to six schools. 

The middle school pilot program started in spring of 2015 with Frick Impact Academy, James Lick Middle School, and Visitacion Valley Middle School. The pilot had students compete in a single intramural tournament in their middle schools. Teacher-coaches were so excited for the program that BAUDL pitched it as a permanent program. 

Now BAUDL is serving six middle schools - Elmhurst College Prep, Frick Impact Academy, James Lick Middle School, Sankofa Academy, Visitacion Valley Middle School, and Westlake Middle School. 

This school year 58 students came to four BAUDL tournaments to compete. Students debated several public forum topics, including: ​​reparations, the refugee crisis, military bases in Okinawa, standardized testing, and poverty reduction programs. 

BAUDL is excited to support debate in middle schools as an important education intervention to improve high school graduation rates. According to the Department of Education, more than 6,400 California students drop out​ in the 7th and 8th grade. ​​Gloria Romeron, former state Senator is right -​"Middle school has been ignored too long" and executive director, Toni Nielson, feels passionately about offering academic extracurricular activities as a means of getting students engaged in school. She says, "the most impactful type of education is the kind that is so fun you don't even realize you are learning - that's what debate brings to the table."

Apr 25
BAUDL is the 2016 National League of the Year!


The 2016 National League of the Year is the Bay Area Urban Debate League! 

Our success and expansion efforts have not gone unnoticed by the national community. BAUDL programming soared to new heights in the last year by qualified to the Tournament of Champions, second place speaker at the 2015 Urban National Championship, 2015 Urban Debater of the Year, winning the CSU, Fullerton Varsity tournament, putting multiple varsity teams in the elimination rounds of invitational debate tournaments. While our students accomplished more than ever, we also added schools, school districts and signficant programming. BAUDL expanded debate courses in the master schedule to six different high schools, opened programming in West Contra Costa Unified, and launched a six school middle school public form program. 

"Our accomplishments are possible only because of the love and support of the Bay Area community", said executive director, Toni Nielson; "from individuals donating time and generous gifts to the legal community and foundations, we are the product of a deep educational equity committment unique the bay." The BAUDL team has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of youth. 

Thank you National Association of Urban Debate Leagues for recognizing the power to 

Speak. Learn. Lead. 

Feb 26
BAUDL Qualifies to the 2016 Tournament of Champions

TOC Christine Harris & Max Li.jpg

Skyline's Christine Harris & Zhanchong "Max" Li have broken every Varsitty BAUDL record! In an amazing run at the prestigous University of California, Berkeley tournament that took them all the way to the final round, the outstanding duo has now received their third bid to the elite 2016 Tournament of Champions (TOC) in Lexington, KY. We couldn't be more proud of this pair. 

Christine and Max can be found working almost every day after school in the BAUDL office "squadroom" preparing for tournaments. Their hardword is an inspiration for everyone around them. Varsity BAUDL debaters will tell you that Christine & Max push them to work harder and debate better just to compete at their level. Coach Rashid Campbell, who runs the BAUDL travel team program, said, "This is the result of a tremendous amount of effort on their part. They will be representing BAUDL against private schools all over the country and will show them what Oakland can accomplish."

Christine and her former partner, Leonard Irving-Thomas, received one bid last school year, but didn't get the requisite second bid to officially qualify. We are excited she could break this record with her best friend, Max Li. 

Good luck you two at the TOC! 

Dec 04
BAUDL 500 - Double Your Generous Impact in December
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The BAUDL 500 is our annual campaign to sustain the league. With your gift, we can maintain debate programs in 23 schools that serve more than 350 young people in a single school year! 

Programs at BAUDL give students undreamt of opportunities. Students envelop themselves in a supportive community excited by academic success and frame themselves as intellectuals and problem-solvers. At 10 tournaments a year, young people will battle in a match of wits and new scholars will be born at every single event. Some will travel to places they never thought possible (DC, Chicago, Baltimore, all over the West Coast, etc) while others will be immersed for weeks on end in a college environment. 

What does an investment in BAUDL tanigbly mean? 
  • ​Hundrends of teenagers thinking about politics and civic engagement while reading/comprehending complex texts to inform those opinions. 
  • Students on the margins re-dedicating themselves to education and intellectual communities. 
  • Young people speaking with the community on the issues of our time: police brutality, the bay area housing crisis, California water shortages, transportation infrastructure, immigration policy, election predictions/results, and so much more! 
  • Employment and college skills for youth like complex decision-making, planning, organizing, prioritizing, public speaking, leadership, argum​entative innovation, ​team work, high speed information processing, persuasion and influence skills. 

Join the BAUDL 500 Campaign and double your impact. In the month of December BAUDL secures a $10,000 match if it can raise $10,000. This month only $1 turns into $2; $25 turns into $50 and $100 becomes $200. Only through proof that the community backs BAUDL can we prove to large donors that their investment is safe. Please be part of our community. Your gift is a symbol of our value in the Bay Area. Gifts can be given by clicking: BAUDL 500​. ​

Dec 04
Alumni, Natassija Jordan, selected for the White House Internship Program
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​Natassija Jordan, alumni of California Preparatory Academy, BAUDL class of 2012, has been selected for a White House Internship. Only 100 interns are selected from thousands of applications nationwide! Natassija will move to DC for the spring semester to live and work in the nation's capital. 

The opportunity is real fantastic. Former interns report to CNN (2013), "The internship completely changed my life. ​It was directly responsible for my next career move and I have been exposed to opportunities ​that I 100% would not have had were it not for being a White House intern." Overall, the consensus is that the internship provides job skills and opportunities that are unique and a direct results of your time on the Hill (CNN, 2013). 

Natassija Jordan is an amazing woman and we, at BAUDL, are not surprised that she would be selected for this position. Natassija is a double-major at Cal, competes on their debate team, and is the President of her sorority.  As a long-time volunteer and mentor to other BAUDL debaters, Natassija is in a class of her own. 

Please join me in congratulating BAUDL Alumni and all-around superstar, Natassija Jordan! 

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