ACT- SO: A Magic All It’s Own

NAACP ACT-SOLAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (July 30, 2008) -- On planes and buses from communities large and small in all corners of the U.S. they came to the Magic Kingdom — to cast spells of excitement and opportunity all their own. They are the contestants of ACT-SO--the Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics--a major youth initiative of the NAACP. This year's finals are taking place at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the innovative program. Founded in 1978 by renowned author and journalist Vernon Jarrett, ACT-SO provides a forum through which African American youth demonstrate academic, artistic and scientific prowess and expertise, often gaining recognition reserved for entertainers and athletes. "After this week, you won't be the same," ACT-SO National Director Anana Kambon told participants at tonight's opening session that was just as much a pep rally as party. "It happens every year. Your life won't be the same. ACT-SO will change who you are. But you have to make the commitment to keep this program going. "Make it grow," she challenged. "We are so proud of you," NAACP National Board of Directors member and Florida State Conference President Adora Obi Nweze told the crowd filling the Coronado Ballroom. "You're already winners!" "This is your week," NAACP Youth & College Division Director Stefanie L. Brown told the more than 700 participants. "This is where you come to be a star--not only this week-- but for the rest of your life." ACT-SO programs span most of a year beginning in the fall, followed by planning and coaching of participants through winter months, culminating in nearly 200 local competitions that run through April. National titles are determined each summer. The ACT-SO program is centered around the dedication and commitment of more than 100 community volunteers and business leaders that serve as mentors and coaches. Students compete in 26 ACT-SO categories including business, sciences, humanities, performing and visual arts. Young people like Jamal Miles, who attends Rickards High School in Tallahassee, was introduced to ACT-SO by his godmother. He is a first year ACT-SO participant entered into the drawing category with his pencil and marker works. "It's been fun," he said, "and this is all about getting better at my craft." John Auber is a rising junior at Florida High, also in Tallahassee. He was there to lend support to Miles, but placed second in a local competition in the classical and contemporary music categories. "ACT-SO is a great experience for us young people of color. It takes us off the street and builds our character. We are the future — and it's time for us to take over and show what we can do," he said. Exhilarated teens in custom-made, brightly colored ACT-SO T-shirts "reppin' their hometowns or sponsoring NAACP branch, jumped happily in front of cameras posing for pictures as the program wound down. As the music pumped by "DJ Jem' of Chicago faded into the humid evening, the young people danced, gathered in excited groups to meet one another/network and hype their plans for success in the coming days — not only in Orlando--but hopefully in life. --from central, Florida Richard J. McIntire, Communications Director-NAACP National Office