Harvard Diversity Project Surprises a New Cohort of 28 Black Atlanta Youth

(Click to see video of the surprise announcement!)

ATLANTA, Georgia (September 24, 2018) – On Sunday, Sept. 23, a new cohort of 26 Atlanta Great Debaters were surprised with the news of their acceptance into the Harvard Debate Council Diversity Project (HDCDP).

Brandon Fleming, Assistant Debate Coach at Harvard University and Founder of HDCDP, shares, “After our inaugural 2018 class made history and gained national admiration, we are thrilled for the opportunity to once again show the world what it looks like when scholarship meets culture.”

 Hundreds of students throughout Metro Atlanta applied to join the latest cohort of scholars that would continue the legacy set by the former champions. Of the myriad of applicants, 50 advanced to an arduous vetting process, after which 26 candidates were invited to a surprise acceptance announcement. The energy and emotion-filled surprise, which took place at The Art Institute of Atlanta, was disguised as a final interview round that turned out to be a magical, unforgettable moment for the students and their parents.

(Trinity Franklin, Junior at Benjamin E. Mays High School)
(Trinity Franklin, Junior at Benjamin E. Mays High School)

“As a final challenge, each student entered a room was donned in a Harvard sweatshirt and instructed to pretend that they were a Harvard ambassador. They were then tasked to give an impromptu speech persuading the panel of judges why a student should choose Harvard as their number one college choice,” Fleming said. “Concurrently, parents were being interviewed by board members—a strategic ploy to assemble the families for the big surprise.”

As the students and parents were being dismissed, Fleming invited the 26 candidates, having no idea what would happen next, to step forward for a group picture.

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“It was such a powerful moment,” said HDCDP Board President Dani Ayers. “As proud, yet anxious, parents positioned themselves to capture the moment on their cameras, the room went completely dark and a video began to play on the screen. The faces of each student appeared, followed by a congratulatory image announcing the 26 students as the Class of 2019. It was electric—with a confetti shower, tears of joy, and shrills of excitement and astonishment from the students and their parents.”

(Trinity Franklin embraced by her father.)
(Trinity Franklin embraced by her father.)

“Words really can’t describe the feeling after I heard that I was accepted into the Diversity Project,” said Trinity Franklin, a 11th grader at Benjamin E. Mays High School and member of the 2019 HDCDP class, “I accomplished a big milestone in my life for myself and my mother. When I was crying, they were tears of joy because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

Now it’s official, 26 Black Atlanta youth have started their 10-month journey to the Harvard Debate Council summer residency at Harvard University as the second class of HDCDP. 

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About Harvard Debate Council Diversity Project: A subsidiary of Harvard College, HDCDP is an Atlanta-based pipeline program that provides Black youth access and exposure to accelerated academic training in critical thinking, communication and civic engagement. HDCDP seeks to matriculate underrepresented students into the Harvard Debate Council’s summer residency.

For more information, please contact Kelli Bennett at kelli@wethrivemedia.com or via phone at 317-457-4759.