For the first time in the history of the Harvard Debate Council, two Black girls from Atlanta have made history as the first Black female duo to win the annual summer debate competition at Harvard University, reports Black Enterprise.
Jayla Jackson, 16, is a rising junior at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School. Emani Stanton, 17, is a rising senior at North Atlanta High School.
Students from the Harvard Debate Council’s program are pretty much unstoppable and for the fourth year in a row have left the competition in the dust and taken the top prize
Each summer, the Harvard Debate Council, one of the oldest campus organizations at Harvard University, hosts a summer residential program for hundreds of gifted youths from more than 15 countries around the world who converge on campus for two weeks of intensive study, which culminates in a program-wide debate tournament. This year’s residency and competition were held virtually due to Covid.
Both girls are current members of the Atlanta-based Harvard Diversity Project, an initiative founded by Harvard’s award-winning debate coach and author Brandon P. Fleming. In 2017, Harvard accepted Fleming’s proposal to establish the Diversity Project as a means to promote diversity, equity and inclusion on campus.
Fleming recruits underserved Black youth in Atlanta with little to no prior debate experience. He trains them every weekend for one year in Atlanta leading up to the Harvard summer program, exposing them to higher-level academic disciplines. In four years, Fleming has raised more than $1 million to enroll in excess of 100 African-American students into the Harvard debate residency on full scholarship. All four cohorts trained by Fleming’s unique curriculum have gone on to win the international debate competition at Harvard.
This year, Jackson and Stanton secured the fourth consecutive championship for the Atlanta-based team with an undefeated 10-0 record. The topic of debate was, “Resolved: The North Atlantic Treaty Organization should substantially increase its defense commitments in the Baltic States.”