The National Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) program, created in 1978 by the late Vernon Jarrett, and adopted by the NAACP is designed to provide an instrument of to forge connections between adults and high school students and their families through an Olympic-style competition in 27 categories under the headings of Humanities, Sciences, Visual, Performing Arts and Business.
The Newark ACT-SO Program initiated in 1992, has provided opportunities for youth to demonstrate academic and cultural excellence for hundreds of students throughout Essex County with a specific emphasis on Newark.
Newark has captured national medals every year in numerous categories including architecture, filmmaking, dance, playwriting , art and physics. Medalists have not only continued on to academic success in their high school education but have pursued fulfilling careers in science, the visual and performing arts, public service and business. Our stories are proud ones.
Deborah Smith Gregory and Darnell Davis are the volunteer co -founders of the Newark ACT-SO program and with their consistent and voluntary perseverance, have been operating the program for the past 24 years. The aim has been to develop connective tissue between students’ school life and pursuit of excellence as a way of life within a community context. Under their leadership, over 1,000 students have participated in the program.
Equally important, the Newark ACT-SO program has had notable success in recruiting adult mentors who volunteer their time and expertise to youths. They are professionals in the categories they mentor. As such, the adults invest time, energy and resources because of a conviction to the ACT-SO purpose to galvanize adults to fertilize opportunities for youth. These dedicated volunteers meet with students for five months prior to the competition. Through general informational workshops concerning available academic and cultural opportunities, field trips, small group and one to one sessions, mentors provide motivation for excellence.
Each year, the New Jersey ACT-SO state competition held in April represents the culmination of recruitment, planning, workshops, mentoring sessions and enrichment activities. More than 250 students from around the state and more than 100 adult judges and volunteers participate in the daylong event.
Gold medalists continue on to a national competition that is a prelude to the national NAACP convention. Winners received cash and other prizes.
The NJ ACT-SO program has been approved by the NJ Governor’s Arts in Education Awards Program.