By Veronica Norris
The NAACP Philadelphia Branch ACT-SO program has launched the first of their series of kickoff events for the 2021-2022 competition season. The purpose of ACT-SO kick-offs is to recruit potential students and engage them in the participation process. ACT-SO — an acronym which stands for the Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics of the mind — was founded by the late Vernon Jarrett. The first National ACT-SO competition was held in Portland, Oregon with seven cities participating: Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and St. Louis.
According to the NAACP website, the ACT-SO program is described as “primarily a learning experience culminating in both a local and national competition.
Throughout the year, students collaborate with local volunteer instructors, coaches, and mentors to develop projects and performances specific to their competition category. Additionally, participants receive youth enrichment opportunities, including workshops, tutorials, and field trips.
The first local kick-off event was held on November 19 at the beautiful state-of-the-art The Beckett Life Center on North 16th Street in the heart of North Philadelphia. Heartfelt thanks go out to Jeffrey Jabez Smith, Carol Smith and their entire executive board, a dynamic team who continues to empower the youth and the community.
The agenda consisted of introductions, videos, introductory script reading, NAACP history, ACT-SO history and closing remarks. Carol Smith spoke briefly, welcoming the ACT-SO program at their facility and about what their facility offers to the youths and community, and donated Temple University t-shirts.
“You could have been anywhere today, but you chose to be here!” former NAACP Philadelphia Branch ACT-SO chairperson Sean Parker told the students.
A raffle was held for three Chick-Fil-A gift cards, which went to Jadon Heath, Jonathan Edmond and Nadhir Mapp.
A special drawing was also held by Yvette Parker where Amir Jones was the recipient of a small cash prize. In addition to Parker and Carol Smith, students heard from Jamir Coker, vice president of the NAACP Philadelphia Youth Council; Catherine Hicks, president, NAACP Philadelphia Branch; Brenda Myers, co-chairperson, NAACP Philadelphia Branch ACT-SO committee; Veronica Norris (Ms. V.), chairperson, NAACP Philadelphia Branch ACT-SO committee; Yvette Parker, NAACP Philadelphia Branch ACT-SO committee member, who gave a dynamic presentation of the ACT-SO program’s history; Jimmy Allen, MET program, and Richard Washington, founder of Bringing Everybody Together (BET). It was truly a productive and informative kick-off event.
The earlier a participant begins to prepare and practice, the more opportunities they will have in placing in the competition. The kickoff events offer an open forum, information session, and an overview of past national competitions and celebrities who were a part of ACT-SO and are now ACT-SO alums.
More importantly, participants get a chance to highlight their talents and skills in more than 32 categories, ranging from STEM, humanities, visual arts, performing arts to entrepreneurship (business). During these sessions, students, parents, and special guests are also able to ask questions in a Q&A session.
As the NAACP Philadelphia Branch ACT-SO youth prepare for the local competition, which is scheduled for April 30, 2022, and the National NAACP ACT-SO competition, scheduled for July 14 – 17, 2022, in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the committee is preparing each of the youths in their prospective categories, and hopes to award at least 25 gold medals to compete with other gold medalists from all over the country. This is realistic and not an impossible goal if everyone puts the work in!
Since 1978, ACT-SO has been growing and expanding in states by numbers and dedicated support. Even throughout the pandemic, the ACT-SO program managed to hold local and national competitions virtually. Certainly, a round of applause is due for the dedication, passion and determination of our local boots on the ground and to the National ACT-SO chairperson, Larry Brown Jr., and Jamie Branch, the National ACT-SO coordinator.
A special thanks to Mr. James and James March of The Beckett Life Center; The Philadelphia Sunday SUN; City View Pizza & staff; Annie Addison, NAACP Philadelphia Branch ACT-SO volunteer, and Jimmy Allen of the MET Program and the West Philadelphia Coalition as well as a special shout out to all our parents and students.
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