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Five years ago our CEO, Leah Shapiro, was driving with her 6-year old cousin who was throwing a tantrum...again! To restore the peace, Leah said, “Let’s play a game called ‘Debate.’ I’ll say something and then you have 10 seconds to prove me wrong.” Instantly captivated, they played for over an hour, and this pivotal moment inspired Leah.


What if debate put fun ahead of competition? And what if it was about skills-building for kids of all ages and backgrounds? 


Motivated to explore these questions Leah approached her long-time friend, Josh Aaronson, and the two started Debate it Forward with a single school on Chicago’s south side.


DiF has since worked with over 30 schools, built a robust virtual curriculum, and runs in-person and virtual camps during school breaks.



Since inception, Josh and Leah have believed that one’s home zip code shouldn’t determine one’s access to life-changing learning. As a result, Debate it Forward seeks to meet people where they are by allowing eligible families to only pay what they can afford.

DiF also aims for diverse representation in staffing, teacher hiring, and board composition, and we embed inclusive perspectives in our programming. Whether we’re teaching kids to distinguish the difference between ‘cultural appreciation’ and ‘cultural appropriation,’ our curriculum is designed to help kids investigate their beliefs and those of others. 

While we’ll readily admit we still have work to do, DiF is committed to including everyone in our work - to make a DiF-ference in civil discourse and learn from the myriad experiences we all bring to the world.



We envision a world where disagreement doesn't breed disparagement, where empathy is second nature, and where every young person can confidently answer the question, "What do you think?"     


We’re all dismayed by how polarized our world is becoming. We shout down beliefs that conflict with our own. We rarely examine how we’ve formed our opinions. And we don’t really listen to one another any more. Yet now is when we need to come together with immense global challenges to tackle.


This is where we come in. We want to move upstream and help younger kids intentionally form and share opinions that catalyze change and deliver social value. And we know this can be taught and learned, and so too do the parents, teachers, and kids with whom we work. 


While we would never claim to be the only solution, we know Debate it Forward is making a DiF-ference and we’d love to prove it to you. So we’ll ask it again….”What do you think?” 

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