Voices Foundation

for the Promotion
of High School Debate

In my opinion, debate is the most valuable activity a high school student can partake in. I cannot possibly imagine any other pursuit that I will ever engage having as many positive effects on my life.

— John McKay, Founder

About the Voices Foundation

Our Mission

The Voices Foundation was established by a student-coach in an effort to make high school debate accessible to all students, regardless of financial circumstance. The Foundation strives to address shortfalls of resources and support that impede participation by financially disadvantaged individuals and teams through educational programs, outreach efforts to high schools and middle schools trying to start teams, and scholarships for summer camp, tournaments, and coaching.

Donations and Volunteering

The Foundation relies heavily on the input and volunteer effort of current and recent high school student debaters and coaches to identify needs and participate in strategies for addressing them.

The Voices Foundation is a public charity, as designated under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. (See IRS approval letter here). As such, all contributions are tax-deductible.

Foundation Activity

Voices hosts a round robin annually. Donations to the foundation are encouraged from those with the means attending the event.

Voices also aspires to recognize individuals on a variety of levels (students, parents, and coaches) who embody the selfless spirit the institution of debate requires in order to flourish. Ultimately, Voices sponsors and supports the individuals who truly wish, but are economically powerless, to maximize their participation in debate. Such assistance occurs on multiple levels, from funding for camps to assistance in paying for tournaments (travel, registration fees, etc.) and other debate related activities.

The Philosophy of Voices Foundation:
A Message from the Founder, John McKay

Financially, my parents had the means and desire to support my trips all over the country and the endless streams of summer camps. Communally, I was surrounded by talented competitors and caring people who constantly sacrificed their time and effort to help me improve. What has come to sadden me, however, is the fact that very few people are blessed with the unlimited opportunities that I have always been given. Many former debaters choose to give back to the activity that had given them so much through judging, coaching, and working at camps. For me, as a student, these tradeoffs were certainly the most worthwhile deals imaginable. All I had to do was have my parents write a check, and I was granted the privilege to learn from brilliant individuals. Unfortunately, such tradeoffs are not as simple for those who do not have the economic capacity to pay for camps, traveling, tournament registrations, etc. There is nothing more heartbreaking to me, as a competitor and instructor, than witnessing such barriers preventing individuals from fully actualizing their desire to participate in the activity that I owe everything to. This is a problem that is combated on many levels, from camps giving financial aid, to schools and communities and local groups granting money to debate programs, to organizations like the Urban Debate League fostering debate where it otherwise would not have blossomed, but there's always room to improve. Although I've been told that teaching at camps, or judging rounds, or coaching kids, is sufficiently 'giving back' to the community, I remain somewhat skeptical [...] To allow a personal channel to remedy my own desire to more adequately 'give back' to debate, and what will hopefully serve as a more widespread vehicle for those inside and outside of debate to help foster the growth of our activity, I've decided to start Voices: Foundation for the Promotion of High School Debate.

— John McKay, Founder

About the Founder: John McKay


John McKay founded the Voices Foundation for the Promotion of High School Debate. He was a founding member and served four years as president of the debate team at Menlo-Atherton High School in California. Following his graduation, he became the head coach of his alma mater.

John was one of the most successful debaters in recent history, earning nine bids to the prestigious Tournament of Champions his senior year. (Two bids are required to qualify.) He won awards at the elite MBA Round Robin (TN) and Stanford Round Robin (CA), was runner-up at the Mineapple (MN), was co-champion of the College Prep School Invitational (CA) and MLK Tournament (CA), and won Manchester-by-the-Sea (MA), the Grapevine Classic (TX), the Victory Briefs Round Robin (CA), and the St. Mark's Heart of Texas Invitational. He ended his career as a semifinalist at the TOC.

John passed away on August 2, 2005.Originally posed to Victory Briefs Daily. we invite you to read tributes to his life. His family and friends are committed to perpetuating the Voices Foundation in his memory.