News Releases
May 22, 2012

Boston Bar Joins with Boston Debate League to Invest in Boston’s Youth

Press Release

Expanding its portfolio of public service programs aimed at providing educational enrichment opportunities for the racially and culturally diverse population of students attending Boston’s Public High Schools, the Boston Bar Association (BBA) today announced that it has entered into a partnership with the Boston Debate League (BDL). The BDL is a non-profit organization that works in partnership with the Boston Public Schools (BPS) to support academic debate teams in local high schools and train BPS teachers to use debate as a regular part of their classroom practice. BBA members are now being recruited for the school year that begins in September 2012.

“Our partnership with the Boston Debate League meets three important goals: helping the young people of our community enhance their academic skills, expanding the pipeline of racially and ethnically diverse students who may choose to become lawyers, and providing lawyers with the sense of fulfillment that comes from performing meaningful public service,” said BBA President Lisa C. Goodheart. “The power of debate is a great tool for engaging both students and lawyers.”

According to the BDL, debaters are three times less likely to drop out of school than non-debaters, and African-American males who debate, in particular, are 70 per more likely to graduate from high school than those who don’t. Debate prepares students to get into college but, more importantly, it gives them the necessary skills to succeed and thrive once they get there.

The BDL also reports that urban debaters improved both their Reading and English ACT scores by 15 percent and are 34 percent (English) and 74 percent (Reading) more likely to achieve the college readiness benchmarks after just two years in debate.

BBA members will have the opportunity to donate their time to the BDL in any of three ways:

  • They can volunteer to judge debates (each shift is just a four hour commitment);
  • They can volunteer to be debate mentors (this is a higher level of commitment, requiring two hours per week); and
  • They can provide general support to the BDL, including legal and other-in-kind support, event support and hosting, and volunteer outreach and shepherding.

Training is provided for all volunteers.

The BBA takes a lead role in three other programs directed at Boston youth: the BBA Summer Jobs Program, conducted in partnership with the Private Industry Council Boston and the Boston Public Schools; the M. Ellen Carpenter Financial Literacy Program, conducted in partnership with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Massachusetts; and Law Day in the Schools, which teaches students in grades K-12 about the rule of law in a constitutional democracy.

If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Stephanie Lee at or 617-778-1914.