DJ Roman and Keith Harris, who are both high school students from Atlanta, recently led their team in winning the 2019 annual international debate tournament at Harvard University. They have successfully maintained their undefeated record for two consecutive years, which marked history in the competition.
Roman, a senior student at North Atlanta High School, and Harris, a senior student at Westlake High School, represented their debate team in the championship round and defeated other scholars from 15 different countries. That is depite having no previous experience in joining debates.
Roman and Harris prepared for the tournament with their teammates for 10 months. They have been guided by Harvard’s assistant debate coach, Brandon P. Fleming, who was highly acclaimed for his efforts with the Harvard Diversity Project which aims to recruit black youth in Metro Atlanta to train and put them into Harvard’s summer residency on full scholarships.
“Most of our students have never been exposed to the power of academic debate,” Fleming said in a statement. “Knowing that they will compete against hundreds of scholars who have years of debate experience combined with the benefit of private and prep schools to their advantage, we seek to level the playing field by introducing our students to higher level academic disciplines that are typically unavailable in traditional school settings.”
“This is the moment that we’ve worked so hard for,” Roman said of their victory. “Our accomplishment is far bigger than us; we are showing the world what black youth are capable of achieving when given equal access, exposure, and opportunities. This win is for our ancestors, our city, and most of all our culture.”