THE INSPIRATION: When Nihar Duvvuri was a freshman, he joined his Fremont, California, school’s speech and debate team. He enjoyed the challenge of crafting an argument to persuade an audience of his position on an issue, and he especially liked the “speech” events, in which competitors perform poems, plays, or other texts—some they even write themselves.“It made me more of a ‘people person,’” says Nihar, now a senior.
Nihar also enjoyed competing in tournaments, but one thing bothered him. “It seemed like it was all middle-class or upper- middle-class people at the tournaments,” he says. A possible reason? Tournament fees can add up to more than $1,500 a year—and that’s not even including the cost of travel. “You can’t get good without going to tournaments, because that’s where the best of the best are,” explains Nihar. It didn’t seem fair that others might miss out on the benefits of speech and debate just because they couldn’t afford the fees.