Story

The Story of the WDI

The WDI was founded in 1999 by Jeff Shaw, Kari Mar (then Kari Shaw), and his college debate partner, Leah Castella.  Jeff, who was working as a high school debate coach in Washington State at the time, was concerned about the lack of women on his local debate circuit.  Though girls and boys joined debate in equal numbers, something happened in the junior and senior divisions that drove girls away from this vital, empowering activity.

Convinced something had to be done, Jeff and Kari conceived of a debate camp that would just be for girls. Leah, a staunch advocate for debate’s role in helping marginalized communities, helped design a program that would incorporate both high-quality debate instruction and personal empowerment. With the help of some of the top debate minds in the country, the founders created a camp aimed at serving dozens of girls each year and closing debate’s gender gap. Since, WDI has grown into a national event that benefits young women from every corner of the country.

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