Jayla Jackson and Emani Stanton of Atlanta, GA made history by becoming the first black female duo to win the annual summer Harvard University debate competition. Jackson,16, is an upcoming junior at Holy Innocents Episcopal School and Stanton, 17, is an upcoming senior at North Atlanta High School.
The 10-0, undefeated duo faced off against hundreds of debaters from around the world. The topic that sealed the deal Resolved: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization should substantially increase its defense commitments in the Baltic States.
The Harvard Debate Council Diversity Project is an Atlanta-based nonprofit, founded in 2017 by Brandon P. Fleming, Harvard University’s Assistant Debate Coach, the program targets Black youth in Atlanta metro area where he preps them for the summer intensive debate summer residency program. Since its start 4 years ago, the talent coming out of the program has been an unstoppable force, leaving everyone else in the dust with all four cohorts trained by Fleming going on to win the international debate competition at Harvard.
For Fleming, it is more than just debating, it allows the students to have access to programs that they wouldn’t have access to otherwise. The mission of the organization is to create a pipeline for the intent purpose of increasing minority representation at the Harvard residency. Fleming said the goal of the program is to show the world what educational equality looks like by creating opportunities for the underserved youth to gain exposure and access to academic training that will distinguish them as top candidates in the college admission process. Over its 4 years in existence the program has captured the attention and financial backing of major corporation such as Coca-Cola, UPS, and Publix Super Markets to name a few. These organizations help to fund scholarships for students in the pipeline to study at Harvard every summer.
According to Black Enterprise, Fleming has raised over $1 million to enroll over 100 African- American students into the Harvard debate residency on a full scholarship. The 10 month- training program is not for the faint at heart, with students giving up every Saturday over this time period to learn public speaking, argumentation, and critical thinking skills. Upon winning the competition, Jackson stated that she and Stanton want to use their platform to show the world what is possible when leveling the playing field for those who need it most. We salute these young queens and look forward to what ceiling they will break through next!