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.
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:
We partnered with 28 schools and had more than 500 students participate in speech and debate in the region.
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.
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.
The Initiative is made possible by The Richmond Forum, its subscribers, community partners, and sponsors.
Speech & Debate Initiative Manager
Director of Student Programs
110 South 15th Street, Suite B, Richmond, VA 23219