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27 Apr 2018

Their Moment To Shine

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April 27, 2018 Category: Local Posted by:

ABOVE PHOTO:  Various Olympians with ACT-SO Chair Sean Parker (in back).  (Photo: Leona Dixon)


At Saturday’s ACT-SO Competition, Philadelphia’s students got the chance to show off their talents.


By Denise Clay

From 10:30AM to 5PM Saturday, I got the chance to read some of the best writing from Philadelphia’s high school students as a judge in the Philadelphia NAACP’s ACT-SO Competition.

ACT-SO, which stands for Afro-Academic Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics, celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. Founded in 1978 by journalist and activist Vernon Jarrett, ACT-SO has been a showcase for students around the country to show off their acumen in the sciences, the humanities, business, and the performing, visual and culinary arts.

The idea behind the competition is to show the world that neither they nor their talents can be pigeonholed, said Sean Parker, chair, ACT-SO.

“ACT-SO is so important because it gives the students that participate an experience to share their gifts, their talents,” he said. “And also, what we want to do is showcase that they’re involved in more things than just your traditional sports and other kind of activities. They’re so gifted that we want to be able to put them on a platform.”

Phila. NAACP President Rodney Muhammad (c), ACT-SO co-chair Nadine Taylor-Lee, and Gold medal winner Lauryn Laws. (Photo: Leona Dixon)

The students that earned gold medals in Saturday’s competition will move on to participate in the national ACT-SO competition, which will be held in conjunction with the annual NAACP convention in San Antonio, Texas in July.

Philadelphia’s ACT-SO contestants have gone on to national renown. Anthony Burrell, one of the many people who have helped Beyonce’ wow the crowds as a choreographer, was one of Philadelphia’s national ACT-SO winners. Michael Woodard, currently in the Top-10 on “American Idol” represented Philadelphia at nationals in 2016.

So there’s a tradition of excellence. After the Gold medalists were announced on Saturday, the winners were informed that the real work begins now.

“We sit down with the Gold winners after they’re announced and get them prepared for what’s next,” Parker said.

But before preparing for nationals, they had to be prepared for the local competition, and that was no small task.

Gold medal winner in Short Story, Maya Anderson. (Photo: Leona Dixon)

While no one did any cooking on Saturday, I saw lots of singers, dancers and science projects as I walked through the halls of North Philadelphia’s Zion Baptist Church to begin judging the Original Essay/Short Story/Playwriting competition.

The church’s hallways were filled with young people practicing their dance moves, vocal performances, music, their poetry and other disciplines to make sure that they were ready for their moment in the sun.

Here are the winners of Gold, Silver and Bronze medals in Saturday’s ACT-SO competition:

Gold Medalists


Short Story: Maya Anderson

Poetry (Written): Kenneth Moody

Poetry (Performance): Allene Martin

Music Instrumental Classical: Christian Hankerson

Music Instrumental-Contemporary: Christian Hankerson

Music Vocal Contemporary: Aliyah Taylor

Dramatics: Shahaad Mapp

Dance Contemporary: Nasir Pittman

Dance Modern: Maya Brown

Painting: Lauryn Laws

Sculpture: Lauryn Laws


Engineering: Sarah Johnson

Biology: Daniel Gordan

Silver Medalists


Performing Arts:

Instrumental Classical: Jermar Fisher, Janae Horn, Allene Martin

Instrumental Contemporary: Raymond Johnson

Poetry (Written): Kayla McKnight, Jason Collins, Maya Anderson, Jasmine Ballard-Cook, Amir Wilson

Poetry (Performance): Kayla McKnight


Engineering: Beyah Baylor

Computer Science: Jariah Shippen

Bronze Medalists


Performing Arts:

Dance Modern: Nasir Pittman

Dance Contemporary: Maya Brown

Vocal Contemporary: Peter Dacius and Ayanna Hawkes

Instrumental Classical: Kenneth Moody

Poetry (Written): Tyanna Allen, Tyler Riddick, Allene Martin, Jazer Willis

Visual Arts:

Drawing: Maya Anderson and Lauryn Laws

Photography: Miles Conyers

Filmmaking: Tyler Riddick

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