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Debaters At Chicago's Gary Comer College Prep Are Inspired By Story Of U.S. Supreme Court Nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson

By Marissa Perlman

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson had a broad smile on her face as President Joe Biden announced her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court last week.

As CBS 2's Marissa Perlman reported Tuesday night, some Chicago high school debaters are smiling ear-to-ear at the thought of Judge Jackson becoming Justice Jackson too.

Taking the podium for debates as a Chicago high school student is no easy feat.

"My mom said I would be good at debate because I'm very argumentative," said Lorianna Calhoun.

But it's more than just liking to argue, which Lorianna admits she does. Lorianna is a student at Gary Comer College Prep, 7131 S. South Chicago Ave., as is Khalesa Brown – and in a flash, they have quickly become part of a top Chicago debate team that will soon take the national stage.

"You just have to be prepared and know your files," Khalesa said.

They are just two of about 1,000 students from 70 different schools across the Chicago Public Schools district, who research, write, and present original speeches on tough topics – both for and against – in front of judges.

The teams will spend all year crafting their evidence from an evidence binder, but time is of the essence. They only have five to eight minutes to make an impact.

Lorianna and Khalesa tried it just for fun – much like Supreme Court nominee Judge Jackson – who credits much her of success to her debate days.

"That was an experience that I can say without hesitation was the one activity that best prepared me for future success in law and in life," Judge Jackson said in an address at the University of Georgia School of Law.

Her story is inspiring to the two young women from Comer College Prep, who have big goals – like law school, and becoming a pilot.

"She was in our exact same position, and now she's going to be on the Supreme Court," said Lorianna.

Chicago Debates executive director Dr. Toinette Gunn said debate is proven to improve academic performance, test scores, and graduation rates.

"It provides access and opportunity for students who otherwise wouldn't have such access," Gunn said.

She said she is grateful the Comer students now have a role model – who started in a classroom much like theirs.

The spirit, Gunn said, is, "If she can do it – she was here – I can do this too."

On Wednesday, Judge Jackson will start customary meetings on Capitol Hill, where she will make the rounds to members of both parties. That includes meetings with U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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