When I started this position, I asked anyone who would take the time to talk to me in the urban debate community what the largest challenge they had was concerning tournaments. The answer was almost unanimous: Volunteers.
Where do you find them? How do you train them? How do you retain them?
The Washington Urban Debate League started small, relying on my former debate partners and a few former students of mine who attend college in the city, but our network of volunteers has grown far and wide. From pivotal meetings in the elevator of my apartment building to happy hours and references from friends, board members, and donors to friends from Idealist.com, the WUDL can now boast more than 100 volunteers who have judged a debate in the last 12 months.
These volunteers come from all walks of life. Some are college students, former debaters, and alums of other UDLs around the nation, while others are 50 residents of D.C. interested in providing opportunities to students from their neighborhood. Some recruited their friends while they were overseas fighting Zika, and some are occasionally deployed overseas (looking at you, State Dept. folks!).
Our volunteers go above and beyond the call of duty. Many are donors, giving what they can to spread our good work to new schools. Many serve as assistant coaches, or lend their talents in other ways, designing t-shirts, doing research, and connecting us with engaging guest speakers. I am frequently asked, "What else can I do to be helpful?"
Our league is scheduled to grow rapidly this year, at least doubling in size. This is ONLY possible due to the strong, dedicated team we have in place. We can't do it without you volunteers, and I am incredibly thankful for all the myriad of ways that you make my job easier.