Harvard Debate Council Diversity Project
"Raising the young social & political voice in urban Atlanta."

Testimonials

Reviews & Social Media Mentions


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(St. Andrew's sewanee school, c/o 2020)

"I have made the choice to surpass mediocrity in all my efforts; the choice to make my name recognized as one of the legends of humanity. I will stand up for those who have fallen in my name because they knew that our pigmentation was not a judgment on our brainpower, but merely a judgment of our original geographical setting. I will not allow my potential to be reduced by the preconceived ideas of my capability to change society. But, it would interest you to know that two years ago, I didn’t think any of these things about my life. I couldn’t seamlessly develop prose on the grand topics of African American empowerment, Eminent Domain, and the inextricable relationship between ancient philosophies and modern politics. I have acquired a great set of skills, which have allowed me to cultivate my own mind, and transfer my thoughts to actions that could alter the trajectory of a world that could be headed for turmoil. And I can guarantee to you today that I wouldn't have been the scholar that I am if it wasn't for Mr. Brandon Fleming.  

"I recently spoke at my high school graduation. I felt comfortable on the stage. I felt at home in front of all of the people, and I was easily able to channel my emotions and my intended message into my speech. A few years ago, the thought at even being present on such a stage would make me run in the opposite direction. But being in front of thousands of people seemed no harder to me than being in front of a few. My transition from a boy to a successful young man was marked by the mentorship and guidance of many people to which I owe the world. One of those people is Mr. Brandon Fleming. 

Mr. Fleming and I first came into contact at EC Glass High School. I remember watching him give one of the most amazing and engaging speeches that I have ever seen in my life. Most assemblies at school consist of all students dozing off or offering attention only to their phones. I remember specifically thinking to myself as I looked around that he had garnered the most attention from any high school audience I had ever seen. To this day, I still haven't seen it done better. After that speech, Mr. Fleming and I were introduced, and eventually I made it into his very rigorous and rewarding SY Scholars program. 

Over the course of the summer, Mr. Fleming taught our class of diverse and driven students many things. He pushed us to advocate for ourselves, and to take advantage of the opportunities offered to us. He taught us to always work our hardest, and to be respectful. We participated in many creative and challenging activities that forced our adolescent minds to think in ways that we had never before. He pushed us out of each of our respective comfort zones. Mine was public speaking. I was scared, and I stammered and had no confidence. But he pushed me, and he critiqued me, and he taught me. Without him, I would never be able to

One of the things that Mr. Fleming often said what that every lesson should begin with a question. Well, what greater lesson is there than the lesson of life? If we didn’t probe our brains and analytically observe the way things are, I’m not sure where we would be. One of the topics that really racked my brain in our Political Science class was, “Should we focus on what is, or what should be?” I was strong on my position that we should focus on what should be. But Mr. Fleming (always challenging us to delve deeper) would offer the opposition that if we ignored what is already there, then we were being irrational and ideal, and I couldn’t argue against that. So I wrestled with the idea and I came to the realization that both are extremely important. There is no way we can progress if we don’t recognize what problems exist, just as citizens cannot stand up and reach out to the local congressman with their concerns if they do not have a sound idea of what they are complaining about. There must be a marriage between what is and what should be, what we know and what we do with it. This can also be referred to as a relationship between knowledge and logic. This is the golden formula that Mr. Fleming calls "scholarship". Too often there are two forced extremities on issues, and I have found that there are often flaws in each of those extremes. Mr. Fleming not only taught me how to think, but he also taught me life application. Now, I have aspirations to study law, major in English, and become a renowned figure in the judiciary field on her way to reforming politics. All of these wonderful things happened because I was mentored by a man who wouldn’t let me stand by and allow my talents to go to waste.

I recently got the chance to speak with Mr. Fleming in person one last time before moving away. We went to Barnes & Noble, where he placed two books in my hands: Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom and Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. Now, I’ve never considered reading to be a favored pastime of mine, but ever since he gave me those two books, I couldn’t put them down. He incited a curiosity to see what’s out there, what ideas have already been created so I know what work is left to be done. While we were talking, different topics came up, like my favorite lesson of all time entitled, “Definitions are Not Absolute.” This is the first lesson we were taught by him in his seventh grade Philosophy course, and this is the lesson that stuck with me most. It resonated because it taught me this: In life, people will have their thoughts about you. They will make assumptions about your character, your intellect, and your heart. And just as the world will, you will begin to limit yourself also. But, just because you are in a certain place, doesn’t mean you have to stay. And if anyone is the personification of determination, it’s Mr. Fleming. He was struggling high school student that went to college and dropped out because he wasn’t prepared, but he completely turned everything around. He uplifted himself by uplifting the youth around him. He created the S.Y Scholars Program in Lynchburg, Virginia. He was hired right out of college to teach at the Ron Clark Academy, where he has already gotten the chance to directly impact roughly 160 students, many of whom have gone to prestigious boarding, private, and day schools across the country. He saw a change that needed to be made in the world, and he continues to make that change, one child at a time. He inspires me to be the change that I wish to see in the world and has truly been an amazing leader and mentor. I am truly honored that I got to meet him, and his impact on me will manifest into everything I will become."


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(university of pennsylvania, c/o 2020)

"Mr. Fleming is a flame. Many enter the classroom with the intention of teaching, and successfully do so; however, there is something special about an educator who approaches a lesson with the intention of drilling it so deeply into the minds of his students that they couldn't dare to forget a word. Maybe it's the flare. Maybe it's the passion. Maybe it's the friendships he builds with his students. Whatever "it" is that makes Brandon Fleming so great as a teacher is a formula that others should strive to achieve.

He recognizes that a curriculum should challenge and change, and things like age and background hardly define who is capable of learning what. As a former student of his, I will forever be influenced by his view that education should not be about simplifying a lesson for easier absorption; it should be about bringing the student to the level of the material. Because of this, his students are ready for anything. They are fearless and they believe in themselves. And this is absolutely a testament to Fleming's guidance."


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(The Lawrenceville school, c/o 2019)

"Many go through life seldom thinking beyond what is put before them.  We accept what we can not understand and never try to decipher truth. Rarely do people ask “Why?” -- Why do people think and react in certain ways? Why is it our human nature to fight instead of argue? Why do we accept being so narrow minded? Most people would claim that they do not have the time to think such thoughts, claiming that they have better things to do than to just ponder our existence. Maybe this mindset, which has sadly taken over the majority of the human race, is why there are now few geniuses and philosophers like Albert Einstein or Socrates. Most teachers are too afraid, or don't know how, to open their students’ minds to the power of rhetoric and not settling for misconceptions. A lot of people simply do not know how to find truth for themselves. I used to be one of these people, I did not want to go through the “mental pain” it took to ask such questions. In short, I was too lazy. I was too accepting. I kept living life with this mindset until I stepped into Mr. Fleming’s class. Mr. Fleming is one of the rare minds that actually takes time to sit and think about the seemingly unintelligible.

r. Fleming is one of the most brilliant people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. As he says, there is definitely a huge difference between teaching and educating. Most teachers teach, few educate. A common belief is that the child who can retain the most facts, names, and memorable dates is a genius. One is not truly educated until they can memorize every war and revolution that has ever taken place in the world, right? No, the real intellectual is the one who knows these things, yet instead of discussing historical events and dates they discuss the revolutionary ideas surrounding them. How was Hitler able to persuade a whole nation to do such immoral acts? Mr. Fleming has taught me to ponder ideas and to think beyond the surface. I have learned to study the world around me and ask “Why?”. I find myself asking more questions and coming up with more theories. I enjoy starting thought provoking discussions with my peers and then questioning  why they have certain ideologies.

I aim to look at every side of an argument so that I can gain a better understanding. I have no one else but Mr. Fleming to thank for this.

Mr. Fleming’s dedication to bettering me is unforgettable, he has gone out of his way to make sure that I strive to be the best person I can be. I can never fully repay him for all of his mentorship and love. It is obvious that Mr. Fleming is passionate about what he teaches. He does not just teach his students in the classroom. He spends his free time trying to better himself; he educates himself as he educates others. Mr. Fleming always tells me that one should aim to be able to teach themselves without the guidance of teachers. Yes, teachers are great, but if schools were to be outlawed today one should have the ability to educate himself. It is obvious that Mr. Fleming lives by this while also inspiring others to do the same. Mr. Fleming has honestly changed my life for the better. He has opened my mind to new ideas and aspirations. He truly made me believe that with asking questions, not being so accepting, and having a dedication to better myself as an intellectual, I can truly leave a strong legacy and have an indelible impact on this world."


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(The george school, c/o 2020)

"Albert Einstein once said, "The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination." The true testament to your brain's capacity lies in what you have the power and courage to envision. I remember my 7th grade year like it was yesterday. I was nothing but a shy 12-year-old thinker who was afraid to share her thoughts with the world. No speech, novel, or class was ever able to make me believe that my words had value. It was not until I first stepped foot into the philosophy class of Mr. Brandon Fleming that I discovered my passion. 

I believe the greatest gift that one can ever receive is the gift of enlightenment. While having the honor of taking Mr. Fleming's two-year class, I not only learned the difference between knowledge and belief, but I learned how to logically justify what I believe in. Using the modes of persuasion and the power of words, I learned not only how to create my own philosophical theories, but how to convey them in a way that compelled others to think differently. I had a newfound appreciation and desire for intellectual aptitude, and I have Mr. Fleming to thank for it all. 

Mr. Fleming's mentorship and tutulage within the classroom has most certainly impacted me in an unforgettable way. What I admire most about Mr. Fleming is what he does outside of the classroom. He goes out of his way to create real life opportunities that put what we learn in class into perspective. Not only has he taught me the importance of logic, but he taught me the importance of virtue. He is a man who prides himself on doing what's right for others, and that is a quality that I greatly admire. Standing here now as a graduate of his course, I can honestly say that Mr. Brandon Fleming changed my life. He taught me that if desire and imagination are coupled with passion and scholarship, anything is possible."


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(hampton university, c/o 2022)

"Being a senior in high school, I have experienced many different teaching styles,methods, and personalities. One thing that I have been taught is that there is adifference between a teacher and an educator. Not only was I exposed to andnurtured by  an educator but he taught me more than how to debate or write. I was educated on how to think for myself instead of taking everything handed to me. He enhanced my talents and walked as an example of a great leader. Brandon Fleming is not the teacher that hands out worksheets and writes a random check mark for effort. He challenged me to be the best me I could ever be. That’s something a teacher cannot do. That’s something that only love can do."


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(University of virginia, c/o 2020)

"I recently spoke at my high school graduation. I felt comfortable on the stage. I felt at home in front of all of the people, and I was easily able to channel my emotions and my intended message into my speech. A few years ago, the thought at even being present on such a stage would make me run in the opposite direction. But being in front of thousands of people seemed no harder to me than being in front of a few. My transition from a boy to a successful young man was marked by the mentorship and guidance of many people to which I owe the world. One of those people is Mr. Brandon Fleming. 

Mr. Fleming and I first came into contact at EC Glass High School. I remember watching him give one of the most amazing and engaging speeches that I have ever seen in my life. Most assemblies at school consist of all students dozing off or offering attention only to their phones. I remember specifically thinking to myself as I looked around that he had garnered the most attention from any high school audience I had ever seen. To this day, I still haven't seen it done better. After that speech, Mr. Fleming and I were introduced, and eventually I made it into his very rigorous and rewarding SY Scholars program. 

Over the course of the summer, Mr. Fleming taught our class of diverse and driven students many things. He pushed us to advocate for ourselves, and to take advantage of the opportunities offered to us. He taught us to always work our hardest, and to be respectful. We participated in many creative and challenging activities that forced our adolescent minds to think in ways that we had never before. He pushed us out of each of our respective comfort zones. Mine was public speaking. I was scared, and I stammered and had no confidence. But he pushed me, and he critiqued me, and he taught me. Without him, I would never be able to even effectively give a class presentation, much less speak at my high school graduation. Emerging from that program were students that were confident, intelligent, driven, and passionate about their own education. To me, the most amazing thing was his spirit. He loved teaching us, and he was phenomenal at it. We were excited to learn, which is something that can not be said for a lot of education today. Mr. Fleming is a special educator, and the success that I have experienced in my life to this point is something that I could not have hoped to achieve without his help. His impact on me is profound and deep, and he is someone with whom I hope to know closely for the rest of my life."


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(College of william & mary, c/o 2019)

“Carter G. Woodson once said, “The mere imparting of information is not education.  The effort must result in one’s ability to think and do for himself.”  The late, great Albert Einstein once said, “An education is what remains after one has forgotten what he’s learned in school.” 

If these statements are valid, what does school really do for us?  As Whitman said, a teacher should not simply stand in front of a classroom and drone on for hours.  Anyone can mindlessly recite facts, but those facts are meaningless once they leave a person’s mind.  I have often found that I can learn more through independent study and teaching myself concepts than I can after an hour of sitting in class.  What is the point of a class with no energy or passion?  Students get nothing out of it.  The American education system is spiraling downward.  However, there are some teachers that buck this trend, who truly enjoy what they do; teachers who strive to be masters of their craft.  A teacher that is passionate about his subject will transfer that same enthusiasm on to his students.  Students will share the same passion, but only if it is evident.  An inspired teacher will present inspired lessons.  A teacher that smiles during presentations and actually uses more than one tone of voice can work miracles on even the most uninterested students.  Happiness and a positive attitude can be the difference between a student sleeping on his desk and giving his undivided attention.  Finally, a positive teacher is approachable.  Students should always feel welcomed to ask questions.  Teachers that seem distant and detached are often the ones that struggle the most.  A student must feel comfortable first, and then learning can begin. 

I know one person that goes above and beyond the call of duty as a teacher.  Under his tutelage, I have not only grown more as a student, but also as a man.  He was recently recognized as one of Central Virginia’s significant people.  I am proud to say that he is our teacher and the founding president of the S.Y. Scholars Program, Inc.  Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce to some and present to others, Mr. Brandon P. Fleming.” 

- Speech delivered at Liberty University, 2013


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dr. karen swallon prior (professor, Liberty university)

"I have been teaching college for over 25 years.  I have had the pleasure of teaching countless gifted and talented young people.  From among these, there is a handful that stands out as remarkable.  Brandon Fleming is one of these.

randon is remarkable because of where he came from: a boy from a single-parent home who was pushed through academically because of his athletic talent. He then became a young man with an injury that would forever deny him the “magic ticket” through doors that only athletics would open. Instead of becoming bitter or giving up, Brandon got serious: about his education, about his life, about the lives of others in this world who are struggling like he did.

Brandon is remarkable because of what he has done in his young life: as his professor in college, I oversaw him in class, an internship, and in volunteer work. In all these, he was passionate, determined, and successful—a role model for the many young people and community members who benefitted from his work in our community and our school.

Brandon is remarkable because of where he is now and where he is going: he is teaching and inspiring his students, exposing them to experience and ideas most young people never encounter, and pushing himself as he pushes them to accomplish more and to flourish.

I can think of few students I’m more proud of than Brandon Fleming. I cannot think of a worthier investment in a worthier young man."


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