Lucia Hernandez

As I begin my last semester at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I wonder if I ever would have gone to college if it weren’t for the Chicago Debate League.

Going into high school on the south side of Chicago, I was a C-average student, barely getting by. I had a vague notion that I might want to go to college. But I wasn’t a very good student and I was hanging out with kids who would probably drop out someday.

Then a teacher convinced me to try debate. For the first time, I felt encouraged to excel at something academic—and I discovered I could do it! Debate gave me direction I didn’t have before. It introduced me to a world of politics, policy, and injustices—and it made me eager to learn more.

My coaches saw potential in me that I didn’t know I had, and they made me team captain. I worked hard to make my coaches proud and to be a great example to younger debaters. My grades improved, and I started taking advanced courses.

Starting high school, no one expected me to go to college, but now I’m almost a college graduate and I’m thinking about a career as a lawyer. Debate gave me that ambition.

Debate changed everything for me.

I am so grateful to the Chicago Debate Commission for providing this amazing experience. I loved working last summer at the CDC, and I participate as a debate judge or training assistant whenever I can to help other kids debate.

You can help too. Your donation will make sure that Chicago students like me can find their voice, thrive academically, go to college and become successful adults. All because of debate!