Two Atlanta Teens Make History As First Black Girl Duo Debate Champions At Harvard University’s Summer Competition

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Two Atlanta teens made history after the pair won Harvard University’s international summer debate competition on July 17. Jayla Jackson, 16 and Emani Stanton, 17, were competing against 100 debaters from over 15 countries around the world went undefeated at the weeklong competition, the Harvard Debate Council Diversity Project announced on July 18. Jackson, who will be a junior this fall at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School, and Stanton, who will be a senior at North Atlanta High School this fall, took home the top prize in the debate “Resolved: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization should substantially increase its defense commitments in the Baltic States.”

The competition takes place every summer, when hundreds of high school students from around the world meet at Harvard to debate,  but this years competition took place virtually due to the pandemic. The Harvard Debate Council Diversity Project helps trains Black youth in the Atlanta area to compete in the program.

“We did it AGAIN!” the program wrote on Instagram, after the girls won with a 10-0 record. The program included nine teams make the 16-team playoffs, and Jackson and Stanton won.

“Thousands” of Atlanta students apply to take part in the training program, the program’s founder said but only 25 or 30 are selected. The programs mission is to “educational equity by creating opportunities for underserved youth to gain exposure and access to academic training that will distinguish them as top candidates in the college admissions process.” Training for next year’s competition will start in August, and students will meet on Saturdays.

“The achievements of this program and our scholars reveal to the world the power of educational equity,” Brandon Fleming, who founded the program in 2017 told The Root. “We want to use our platform to show people what’s possible when the playing field is leveled for those who need it most.” His teams have gone on to win the summer debate competition all four years. The Harvard Debate Council is one of the oldest campus organizations at Harvard University, the school asked Fleming to start the program in order to increase diversity on the campus.

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