ACT-SO – the Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics, is a youth program under the administrative aegis of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). ACT-SO is a yearlong enrichment program designed to encourage high academic and cultural achievement among underserved minority high school students. ACT-SO relies on community volunteers and business leaders to serve as mentors and coaches in promoting academic and artistic excellence among African-American and Hispanic students. By providing an arena where students strive to excel in the sciences, arts and humanities, ACT-SO equips its participants with the skills to live meaningful lives.
In 1977 Vernon Jarrett of Chicago, a renowned author, civil rights activist and journalist, initiated the idea of a program that would promote and reward young academic achievers the same way sports heroes are honored. The first national ACT-SO competition was held in 1978 in Portland Oregon.
”We must never write off the potential for greatness among any of our beleaguered youth. Never!”
Vernon Jarrett, ACT-SO founder (1918 – 2004)
During our brief history, NYC ACT-SO has had a profound impact on the lives of more than 6,500 young people. During this time there have been a number of very special students who have left an indelible impression on their peers and mentors alike.
David Rodriquez, then 17, lived with his aunt having been abandoned by his [mother?] in the 8th grade. David joined ACTSO in 1990 and entered the category of playwriting. With the help of an ACT-SO volunteer coach, he wrote a play that he won gold medals in both local “Olympics of the Mind” competition and the nationals in Los Angeles . During that same year his was one of seven plays reported in a full page article in cultural section of the New York Times and performed by actors in a special production off Broadway. David has written several books.
Kimberly Acham, an ACTSO alumna who participated in ACTSO from 1989-1992 was a renaissance woman who won more medals, including several national gold, than anyone else during our first 18 years. Despite her mother’s having passed away when she was six, Kimberly became an accomplished painter, drawer sculptor and track star. After earning a degree in fine arts at New York University Kimberly went on to be a junior curator at the Brooklyn Museum of Art and is now a purchasing agent for an art dealer in New York City.
The Bronx’ Michael Phillips won a silver medals in Music Instrumental Contemporary 1989 and 1990. Despite the fact that Michael’s parents could not afford to send him to a top flight music school he persevered in his desire to become a professional musician while receiving coaching from by an ACT-SO volunteer mentor. At the 1990 national ACT-SO competition in Los Angeles Michael met Stevie Wonder and was later invited to join his band. Michael toured with Stevie for several years and performed for Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, South Africa. In November, 2004 he joined Prince’s very successful Musicology Tour. Michael records for the Hidden Beach recording label and has produced several CDs. In 2006 he was the featured jazz performer during the very successful 8 US cities BMW Jazz tour.