A few Atlanta-area high school students made history when they beat hundreds of other high schoolers at a debate competition on Saturday, July 14, according to 11 Alive.

The 25 students, dubbed The Great Debaters, were the first participants of Harvard's Debate Council Diversity Project to attend the esteemed university’s summer debate council residency.

Brandon Flemings, a Harvard University assistant debate coach, created the Diversity Project after he noticed a lack of black participants in the debate residency. Based in Atlanta, the program awards full scholarships to students interested in the residency, a program in which students undergo rigorous debate training that culminates in a single-elimination competition.

Jordan Thomas, one of the students on The Great Debaters, earned first place overall in the tournament.

Thomas defeated over 400 other students from across the globe. Additionally, 10 of the 12 teams from the Diversity Project went to the octo-finals, six made it to the quarter-finals, and two were able to compete in the semi-finals.

Thomas believes his success will inspire kids from a similar background.

“Being a young, middle-class, black, public school student from the South created a stigma that automatically set me back in comparison to the competition, most of [whom] were international students or from predatory schools in the Northeast,” Thomas said.

He also wanted to put down for his city and prove a person’s background isn’t a measure of their intelligence.

 “I was determined to represent my city and my story. I wanted people to see where I came from and how I could keep up with them,” Thomas continued. “To bring the championship back to Atlanta was the most satisfying feeling, and to walk onto the campus of one of the most elite universities in the world and meet personal and council goals, brings a unique and new satisfaction that I’ve never experienced.”

Applications for next year's residency will open on August 15.