The LAMDL works to empower and motivate Los Angeles high school students, support their skills in policymaking, speech and debate, critical thinking and college prep. At the core of our work is a commitment to restore access to competitive policy debate to LA’s most under-served public schools.

Diego as a competitor in 2019

Luckily my English teacher encouraged me, the LAMDL community embraced me – and debate changed my life. Prior to joining the program, I was just another kid roaming the halls, skipping class, and garnering the wrong type of attention. School was unreliable to me, difficult to trust, and offered me no sense of community. I am the oldest son of two immigrant parents, and none of us knew how to navigate a system that wasn’t meant for us.

LAMDL was different. It offered me a community that normalized my success. Never would I have thought, that in just three years in the program, that I’d be a finalist for National Debater of the Year, an intern at a prestigious law firm, and receive a college scholarship. While I can write forever about the benefits debate has given me, as a low-income Mexican kid, what has been most important is the space of healthy communication that I got to cultivate with students from all backgrounds and viewpoints. I’ve met some of my closest friends in debate, as well as my most influential mentors, and I can promise you that the positive experience is universal across all students who stay in the league.

This summer I volunteered at our Summer Debate Institute, I’m a regular judge at our tournaments, and most recently I have invested my efforts into the most meaningful opportunity yet: launching a new LAMDL debate program at Huntington Park High School.

Huntington Park High School is located in the neighborhood I’ve lived in my entire life, and I would’ve gone there, it if I didn’t get off the waitlist for Bravo Magnet two weeks before my freshman year. We’re in South Los Angeles, and this school doesn’t have a good track record of preparing students for college: only 6% go on to hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, while most students join the military or pursue a low-wage job. I’ve spent three months now working with students from Huntington Park, and I can attest firsthand, that these students are not what the statistics portray. With the right direction through debate, I’m confident that these students can share similar stories like mine.

Diego and his teammates celebrating

Urban Debate Leagues like LAMDL are one of the only activities to positively impact a student’s academic career and create a healthy community for at-risk students. As we transition from virtual to in-person programming, your support is needed now more than ever. Recovering from a global pandemic has taken its toll, and our focus now is to launch programs in even more high schools, like Huntington Park, that are often left behind.

Your tax-deductible donation will support our efforts to build robust, engaging, and sustainable policy debate programs. Please join us as we elevate the pathways that debate offers the students of Los Angeles.