Summary of Program: The SpeakFirst Debate program enriches the academic experience of talented and motivated students from Birmingham-area middle and high schools through participation in academic debate.  As they sharpen their debating skills, students also improve vocabulary, critical thinking, speaking ability, and language and study skills. SpeakFirst uses academic debate as a platform to support these students and guide them on a path toward excellence in college and beyond.

The high school team (consisting of ~20 students) specializes in Public Forum Debate, which focuses on practical and philosophical questions about current domestic and foreign policy issues, and emphasizes the ability to debate and convey arguments about these issues persuasively to a judge.  In addition to debate, SpeakFirst provides our high school students one-on-one tutoring and mentoring, college admissions and financial aid guidance, standardized test preparation, cultural educational activities, and summer internships.

Our middle school program engages students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades at eight local middle schools (10-20 students per school) in an extracurricular debate program.  Practices for the league are held after school twice weekly in each school and students participate in four citywide tournaments throughout the academic year.

For more information about SpeakFirst, visit

Summary of Position:  The SpeakFirst Program Manager manages the implementation of the SpeakFirst program, an academic debate and college preparatory after-school opportunity for talented and motivated students from Birmingham-area schools.

SpeakFirst Program Manager Responsibilities:

  • Manage implementation of High School and Middle School Debate programs
  • Supervise and provide support to Middle School Team Leader and High School Coaches
  • Coordinate tournament logistics for middle school and high school programs (including transportation, lodging, food, fees, etc.)
  • Facilitate workshops for SpeakFirst middle school coaches (in collaboration with Debate Instructor and High School Coaches)
  • Attend 1-2 middle school practices per week to support Middle School Coaches (3-5pm on Monday, Tuesday, or Thursday)
  • Develop and sustain community partnerships, including meeting with teachers and principals to convey program expectations
  • Manage recruitment of participants for middle school and high school teams
  • Develop evaluation metrics for student participants and collect data to measure program impact
  • Work with program personnel to schedule AmeriCorps Members for SpeakFirst-related tasks, including tutoring, college prep sessions, judging at tournaments, and ACT prep
  • Oversee college and scholarship application processes for seniors (may involve identifying community partners/resources to provide support in this process)
  • Supervise weekly Wednesday evening homework support and college counseling sessions for high school students (4-6pm)
  • Coordinate the development of debate topics and supporting materials for periodic middle school tournaments (may involve use of community partners/resources)
  • Recruit guest judges from the community for debate tournaments, as needed
  • Oversee the organization of rounds and setup and supervision of the tab room during debate tournaments
  • Oversee planning cultural events, outings, and other educational activities for high school students
  • Represent SpeakFirst at local debate coach meetings
  • Prepare program-specific quarterly reports for Board Meetings and present at Board meetings, as necessary
  • Attend 4-5 weekend high school debate tournaments to supervise AmeriCorps Members and support students [1 compensatory day will be provided per tournament to make up for Saturday work]

Special Notes: The SpeakFirst Program Manager would work in collaboration with a contracted Debate Instructor, whose responsibilities would include the following: develop curriculum and plan lessons for high school debate practices; lead high school practices, with the support of AmeriCorps high school coaches; provide training for high school coaches; communicate with parents of students to convey logistics and expectations, and to address any academic or behavioral issues; attend 4-5 weekend tournaments; serve as resource for Program Manager for questions related to classroom management and behavioral issues.  The Program Manager is welcome to participate in debate practices (held Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4-6pm) and more tournaments, as desired (the team generally participates in 9-10 tournaments each year).

Reports to: National Program Director

Location: Birmingham, AL

Skills/Experience Preferred:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • 2-3 years of professional experience
  • Experience in educational-related fields preferred
  • Experience with debate a plus, but not required
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Excellent computer skills

Other Expectations:

  • Positive attitude and rapport with staff and AmeriCorps Members
  • Collaborative spirit
  • Adherence to assigned deadlines
  • Attention to detail
  • Flexibility in a dynamic service environment
  • Serve independently to design weekly schedule and activities to complete projects

Salary:  Commensurate with experience

Physical Requirements/Essential Functions: 

The physical demands described here are representative of those that must be met by an applicant to successfully perform the essential functions of this job.  Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.

  • Sedentary physical activity requiring sitting for periods of time
  • Talking and hearing
  • 50% or more time is spent looking directly at a computer


Nondiscrimination Policy

Reasonable Accommodations Policy for Applicants with Disabilities