Richmond Forum Speech & Debate Initiative

OUR MISSION: Competitive speech & debate programs at all Richmond region public middle and high schools by 2025.

A community initiative to support speech & debate in our public schools. 

For nearly 40 years, The Richmond Forum has presented powerful voices so Richmond can learn. Now, we are empowering the next generation of local voices so Richmond can lead.

The ability to speak with power and confidence and to civilly articulate and debate points of view are critical to a functioning democracy and a successful life. Recognizing the absence of competitive speech & debate programs or inadequate funding in most local public schools, we launched the Richmond Forum Speech & Debate Initiative (RFSDI) in 2018 to implement, grow, and support these essential programs in all Richmond region public middle and high schools.

Why Speech & Debate?

Speech and debate programs cultivate the five critical “C’s” of 21st-century skills – as identified by the Virginia Department of Education’s “Profile of a Virginia Graduate” – like no other activity can.

critical thinking
creative thinking

“Speech and debate changes lives, from increased attendance to higher test scores and a rise in college acceptance, speech and debate prepares young people for college, the work force, and beyond.”

– J. Scott Wunn, Executive Director, National Speech & Debate Association

Get Involved

Community engagement is critical to the success of the Initiative, and especially to our goal of having competitive speech and debate teams in all of the region’s public middle and high schools by 2025.

There are several ways you can be involved.  No matter how you’d like to join us, we look forward to meeting you!

2026 National Speech & Debate Tournament

The National Speech & Debate Association has selected the Richmond region as the host of its 2026 National Speech & Debate Tournament, an event that is expected to attract 10,000 student contestants and visitors to the area. To be held June 14-19, 2026, this competition is one of the largest academic events in the country.

Our Progress to Date

Since its launch in 2018, the Initiative has made great progress towards the goal of having speech and debate activities in all of the region’s middle and high schools by 2025.

The 2022 – 2023 academic year was one of tremendous success for RFSDI! Last year:

500 Students

We partnered with 28 schools and had more than 500 students participate in speech and debate in the region.

80 judges

We recruited and trained more than 80 active volunteer judges!

18 National qualifiers

Eighteen students qualified for the National Speech & Debate Tournament – twice as many as last year.

45 coaches

We had 45 team coaches on the roster—an increase of 25% from last year.

750 tournament registrations

We sponsored seven local and two national tournaments with more than 750 student registrations.

Support speech & debate programs

With your support, we can make competitive speech & debate programs accessible to all Richmond region students by 2025. 

Your generous contribution will help cover tournament entry fees and travel expenses, train coaches and judges, outfit students with professional clothing, support the organization of local tournaments, and much more.

Students with RFSDI banner

Community partners

The Initiative is made possible by The Richmond Forum, its subscribers, community partners, and sponsors.

Contact Us

Lucretia Anderson

Speech & Debate Initiative Manager


Sandra Wheeler

Director of Student Programs


Mailing Address

110 South 15th Street, Suite B, Richmond, VA 23219

Thank you to our Speech & Debate sponsors

Capital One
TCV Trust & Wealth Management
The Herndon Foundation

Seeking volunteer judges

Get involved with the Initiative by volunteering as a judge for local speech & debate competitions. Finding an adequate number of judges can be a challenge for both area teams and tournament hosts. Join our bank of volunteer judges from Richmond Forum subscribers, college students, and other community members.

110 South 15th Street
Suite B
Richmond, VA 23219

Office: (804) 330-3993
Office Hours: 9am – 5pm
Program Day: 10am – noon

Presenting powerful voices so Richmond can learn. Empowering local voices so Richmond can lead.

The Richmond Forum and its partners are proud to support the Richmond Forum Speech & Debate Initiative, a community initiative to bring speech & debate programs to all of our region’s public schools.

The Richmond Forum is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) educational organization.

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