Black scholars are reaching triumphant milestones and making history in the process. According to People, Atlanta teenagers Jayla Jackson and Emani Stanton took home the title at Harvard University’s summer debate competition.
The win was historic as it marked the first time a Black girl duo has won the prestigious debate match. Jackson, 16, and Stanton, 17, went undefeated in 10 rounds; taking on over 100 competitors from around the globe. The students engaged in debates that addressed whether NCAA players should be compensated and efforts being led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Stanton and Jackson are part of the Harvard Debate Council Diversity Project; an initiative launched to increase the representation of diverse scholars in the annual international competition. The project was designed to eliminate socioeconomic barriers standing in the way of access to academic enrichment opportunities.
Jackson—a student at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School—says she hopes their victory will serve as inspiration for others. “The bar has been raised, and that’s a good thing for people and for girls of color all around the world,” she said in a statement, according to the news outlet. “It is still mind-blowing for us. We went in there, and we did it.” Stanton, who attends North Atlanta High School, added she hopes their win motivates Black girls to step into spaces where they are underrepresented. “It’s a catalyst for the next door that I walk into,” she said. “To create a space where we can combine this scholarship and this culture to have more Black girls dominating these academic spaces.”
Their win comes nearly a year after Black scholars Madison Webb and Christian Flournoy won the Harvard Diversity Project’s International Debate Competition. “The message I want to send to Black kids all around the world, despite all the racial stereotypes and no matter who or what tries to limit you — there’s always someone rooting for your success on the other side,” said Webb.