Youth Voices is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization aiming to empower tomorrow’s leaders through discourse and debate.
Fostering communicative skills
Embracing discomfort and building confidence
Learning advocacy outside the round
At the heart of the Youth Voices mission lies one basic principle — that every student’s voice has power. Our single-minded purpose is to help students cultivate a sense of pride and confidence in their voices. We live in a generation of hard-working and studious kids that seldom get the opportunity to look up from their iPhones or their chemistry textbooks and speak up for themselves and for what they believe in. It’s this lost art of “speaking up” that made Youth Voices so necessary.
Youth have the capacity to spark monumental change, but they need their voices. Our ambitious vision is for every young person to use what makes them unique and special to create a meaningful difference in the world around them. I am so excited to help make this vision possible.
Our basic educational method revolves around speech and debate. I found competitive debate in the 6th grade, when I enrolled in my first Lincoln-Douglas debate class. I was almost immediately hooked. To me, debate was high-speed philosophical and intellectual combat. It gave me an outlet where I first learned how to be eloquent, to be persuasive, and to use my voice.
But, it was never the most accessible activity. My middle school didn’t have a debate program, which made it prohibitively difficult to travel the country and hone my competitive skills. For thousands of kids, speech and debate isn’t even on the radar as a consequence of this paucity of opportunity. Without teams and tournaments, much less to say resources, coaching, or connections, many students prematurely fizzle out of the activity.
In May of 2020, we set out to fight that.
We provide an active community of like-minded young people with a passion for persuasion, and experienced coaching that you won’t find anywhere else in the entire state of Illinois, where we’re based. From our free-for-all online club sessions to our professional tournament prep classes, Youth Voices will meet you at your level. Youth Voices is, and will always remain, a student-led organization. And that doesn’t just mean our talented ensemble of high school volunteer instructors. It means that behind every lesson and every activity are the needs of our students. When you put your trust into the Youth Voices promise, we tirelessly work to deliver the best program possible. To date, our team has helped 200 students across the program find their voices, and use them.
And we aren’t done. I look forward to what more we will achieve, and I hope you’ll join us.
— Zach Wu, President and Co-Founder of Youth Voices
As a registered 501(c)(3), Youth Voices uses every nickel of profits to advance our mission of expanding access to speech and debate opportunities, regardless of socioeconomic status. Since our founding in 2020, we have hosted over 60 online club sessions on Saturday nights, totally free and open to all. Our team of junior instructors volunteers their time to plan and run club sessions. Over the past year, Youth Voices has offered four free in-person workshops in the Chicagoland suburbs as well as a number of free practice opportunities. For those who need the financial support to attend our classes or compete in tournaments, Youth Voices has earmarked nearly 50% of our operating budget towards the Youth Voices Opportunity Scholarship. No student in the Youth Voices ecosystem will ever be restricted from access to any learning or competitive opportunities — we’ll provide 100% of demonstrated need.
From our students and their families, who put their faith into the Youth Voices promise, to our senior instructors, who offer their premier coaching at prices well below the national market average, to the executive team, who do not take a single penny in compensation or salary, all of these educational and competitive opportunities are made possible with the support of the Youth Voices family.