SpeakFirst provides Birmingham City middle and high school students with the opportunity to engage in co-curricular competitive debate.  SpeakFirst is engaging a generation of AmeriCorps members for change by serving as coaches supporting students on their path to excellence in college and beyond.

  • % of students from the bottom quarter of lowest-earning U.S. families earning a college degree:
  • 8.6%
  • Every element of SpeakFirst addresses the deficits in low-income communities that impede students from being prepared for, and enrolling in, college.
  • Amount of college scholarships earned by 5 SpeakFirst graduates in 2019:
  • $947,469
  • UA, UAB, and UAHuntsville provide full-tuition scholarships to our seniors, and our students earn many more scholarships to nationally-ranked schools.
  • Number of debate practices in 2018-19:
  • 75
  • Our students practice three hours per day, three days per week to prepare for debate tournaments. Academic debate is widely accepted as the most valuable extracurricular activity to prepare kids for success in college.
  • % of rounds won by our juniors & seniors in 2018-19:
  • 55%
  • Our students compete and hold their own against the best schools in the state.

"A lot of the inequalities that exist in our education system come not from the fact that students don't take advantage of opportunities, but that they aren't offered in the first place. You can't expect a child to perform if she is given no opportunity to do so." --Jennifer Moore, 2014 Vanderbilt University Graduate & SpeakFirst Alumna

We are so proud to feature our debate success stories in the short films below.


Follow SpeakFirst student Brittany Grady's high school debating career and into college where she is excelling.


In 2016, we celebrated Brooklin & Christion's 1st Place finish at the Alabama State Debate Tournament!


Two Junior Debaters Qualify for 2017 National Debate Tournament.


We celebrate the journey of our two seniors as they graduate and move on to Harvard & UA!

SpeakFirst Class of 2018: Brooklin & E'Shandae

We celebrate the journey of our two seniors as they graduate and move on to Yale & UAB!

A $500 contribution helps sponsor a SpeakFirst Middle School Debate Tournament or supports our High School debate team practices and tournament travel.

Numerous reputable national studies as well as extensive qualitative evidence demonstrate the value of co-curricular competitive debate for empowering students.  

Application for High School Team. Due April 13.

SpeakFirst Middle School

The National Forensics League High School Debate Association has prioritized the development of middle school debate programs across the country, due to the array of exceptional skills that can be developed through participation in debate. In August 2013, SpeakFirst launched a citywide middle school debate league for Birmingham City students at six local schools (adding a seventh in 2014). The cognitive and non-cognitive skills developed through the SpeakFirst middle school debate initiative—research, writing, public speaking, perseverance, and commitment—will provide a strong foundation for these students as they prepare for high school and, ultimately, college.

More than 80 middle school students from five Birmingham City middle schools participate in the SpeakFirst Middle School Program each year, debating in three citywide tournaments annually.

Impact Alabama Celebrates Successful First Year of SpeakFirst Middle School Debate League for Birmingham Students



Architecture Works provides in-kind space for our daily SpeakFirst practices during the academic year.


Impact America is an AmeriCorps Program.