The Women’s Debate Institute is turning advocacy into action! Through a new partnership with the Cal National Speech and Debate Institute, the WDI is going on the road.

WDI @ Cal is a breakthrough series of workshops that will be hosted by the Cal National Speech and Debate Institute and will take place on June 18th. This program marks the first time that the WDI has partnered in an official capacity with an external institution.

The program was developed to both partner with high school debate institutes to create a more inclusive culture at debate camp and to allow debaters who weren’t able to make it to the WDI this August the opportunity to access the inclusive community building strategies that the WDI provides. As Leah Castella, Board Chair and Executive Director of the WDI, explains: “The WDI @ Cal is designed to expand the reach of the WDI, and to make the WDI community accessible for more students.”

WDI @ Cal was only made possible through the KIND grant program that the WDI participated in and won. Online activism through sharing of the KIND voting site has allowed the WDI to branch out and continue to make positive change within the debate community. “The WDI @ Cal is a pilot program, and the WDI hopes to expand the program to other camps in future years,” notes Castella.

Attendees will be able to get to know other individuals with marginalized gender identities in a non-competitive atmosphere and establish strong networks of support that they can turn to when they encounter difficult situations in debate or otherwise.

WDI @ Cal will feature a variety of workshops centering on the creation of inclusive communities within debate. Topics include “Using Debate as a Home,” “Community Building,” as well as many other areas of critical thought. A social worker specializing in LGBTQ+ health will also be available throughout the duration of the program.

Kassandra Colón, board member and former WDI attendee, hopes that they can bring the message of inclusivity to the camp as one of the facilitators of the WDI at Cal Initiative.

Colón is excited to be bringing the WDI to Cal because “programs like the WDI @ Cal can allow debaters to create ties within the community that opens them to people they relate to. I met some of my closest friends at the WDI and it really impacted who I am today. At the end of the day, there’s always negativity, but what if this program helped ignite someone’s passion?”

The WDI hopes that its influence achieves policy changes at partner debate institutes to facilitate a more inclusive experience for future years. The WDI has been instrumental in Cal’s recent move to address the issue of gender-segregated facilities, and Jonah Feldman, Director of the Cal National Speech and Debate Institute, believes, “WDI folks have been very helpful in assisting with establishment of those policies.”

The nature of the workshops aim to facilitate a more inclusive experience for students at Cal. Feldman is “hopeful that the WDI experience will contribute to a more gender inclusive environment at our camp.  If participation in the program by our students and staff can prevent gender discrimination and violence that would be a huge success.”

The email to register for WDI @ Cal was sent to attendees of the Cal National Speech and Debate Camp on May 1st. Register as soon as possible because space is limited. We welcome people of all genders, so if you believe that the WDI @ Cal is the right program for you, it probably is!