IMPACT Coalition

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IMPACT Coalition
Founded 1991
Focus Policy debate
Area served
New York City Public Schools
Key people
Will Baker, Chief Executive Officer

The mission of the IMPACT Coalition is to expand opportunities for urban students, schools and organizational partners by providing debate, debate curricula, and support services to develop informed, concerned citizens.[1]


In the early 1980s many urban schools faced budget cuts and debate teams were one of the first casualties. The IMPACT Coalition has helped New York and other big cities to experience a comeback for debate.[2]

IMPACT was founded in 1991 by Will Baker as IMPACT Foundation. The first concept was to use intercollegiate debate teams as mentoring programs. This model was based on the research of Pamela Kallbfliesch and Angela Davies on mentoring to counteract poverty and discrimination.

IMPACT became an affiliate of the Phelps Stokes Fund with Andrew Rainwater Jacobs as IMPACT’s first program director. In 1991, IMPACT created a consortium of urban college debate programs at Columbia University, Rockland Community College and Queens College called the NY Coalition of Colleges to match the resources of larger traditional programs.[3] The first sponsored event was the Urban Workshop Series at the Church Center for the UN.

From this series, new college debate teams were developed at Baruch College, Fordham University, Columbia University, the New School and NYU. These teams partnered with corporate volunteers, alumni, experienced debaters, and coaches enabling each school to sustain its own debate program and present them on a wider stage. IMPACT changed its name from “Foundation” to “Coalition” to reflect the multiple partnerships that comprised its operations.

In 1994, IMPACT expanded its efforts to reach students who could not travel to weekend tournaments forming the Public Forum Debate League (PFDL). Baker recruited Yeshiva University and extended debate to faith-based populations previously precluded from debating competitively by their observances.

In 1997, the Open Society Institute (OSI) with Beth Breger, decided to replicate the existing Atlanta urban debate model. The first urban debate league replication was piloted in New York City in 1997. Thus, the New York Urban Debate League (NYUDL) was created in partnership with Emory University and with Baker consulting on behalf of IMPACT. The NYUDL launched the current era of urban debate expansion.[4]


On average, The IMPACT Coalition provides the debate league's member schools with $10,000 a year each for competition expenses, including travel, lodging and registration fees.[5]

  • CITI (2000), a debate camp held in New York during the summer months
  • Malcolm X Debate Series (2002), a program specializing in prison debates at Riker’s Island
  • Support for Interfaith Debate Exploration (SIDE) (2003), a program to promote faith-based debates
  • JPMorgan Chase Lincoln Douglas program (2004)


  • Over 4,000 individuals have participated in IMPACT debate activities.
  • IMPACT participated in a national study on urban debate run by the University of Missouri which revealed that debaters improve reading skills 25% over non-debaters in the course of a year.
  • IMPACT debaters have appeared on BET MTV, MSNBC and in US News & World Report and the New York Times.
  • Over 100 NYUDL debaters recorded top ten finishes in every division at State Championships.
  • 70 NYUDL teams have qualified for National Championships.
  • The Coalition has facilitated debate programming for JP Morgan Chase, Sponsors for Educational Opportunity, the PS 9 After School program, Riker’s Island Prison,

Bank of America, Children Aids Society, Local 1199, the Bella Abzug Leadership Institute, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

  • IMPACT’s college debaters won the 2003 National Championships while volunteering as trainers at high schools, prisons and non-profit organizations.
  • The Debate in the Schools Initiative includes the New York Urban Debate League (NYUDL), the NY Coalition of College, Teachers Engaging Students Through Educational Debate (TESTED), Coalition Institute and Training Initiative (CITI) and JPMorgan Chase Lincoln Douglas Debates. IMPACT’s program reach extends from the fifth grade students at Bronx Prep and PS9 After School program to fifth year seniors at colleges across New York City.
  • The Debate in the Community Initiative extends debate beyond its customary school settings. It includes the Malcolm X Prison Debate Series, Community Forum Debate, Supporting Interfaith Debate Exploration and Debate Support Centers.


  1. ^ [1] Resolved the HBO documentary; IMPACT Coalition is one of the film's resources.
  2. ^ [2] Resolved: That High School Debate is Back; Discusses an IMPACT Coalition Member School .
  3. ^ [3] NYU Debate; Discusses the team's history and IMPACT's involvement.
  4. ^ [4] Students from inner cities find power at the podium; article in the Christian Science Monitor.
  5. ^ [5] NY Times Article on an IMPACT Member School; "The Debate Team From a Hardscrabble School Seeks National Honors".

External links[edit]