Every great journey begins with a first step, and the visionaries who built the UIL recognized that the first steps toward educational excellence must begin early. Academic competition for younger students was a part of the UIL program almost from the beginning, with the first junior division Declamation contest for students aged 10-14 in 1913. The first competition for students under age 10 was Spelling, which began a sub-junior division in 1921.
The program of academic competition for elementary, middle school and junior high officially includes 20 different events for grades 2-8. These events span the curriculum - they are designed to complement and expand upon what students learn in the classroom, both through learning specific subject knowledge, and through learning skills that are valuable in many disciplines. Approximately 3,000 Texas schools participate in UIL, competing in more than 300 district meets each year.