Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics

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ACT-SO Awards

The Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) is a youth program of the NAACP that is “designed to recruit, stimulate, improve and encourage high academic and cultural achievement among African American high school students.”[1] The year-long program recognizes and awards young people who have demonstrated academic and cultural achievement.[2] Gold, silver, and bronze medals, along with cash awards, are awarded to winners in each of 25 categories.[1] The program is informally named the “Olympics of the mind.”[2]


ACT-SO was founded in 1978 by author and journalist Vernon Jarrett. The program was intended to provide recognition to young people who could demonstrate academic, scientific, and artistic achievement, allowing young people to gain recognition equal to that often achieved by entertainers and athletes.[1]

Since its founding, more than 260,000 young people have participated in the program’s events, and more than 700 gold medals have been awarded to youths around the United States. Over $350,000 has been granted in monetary awards, scholarships, and laptop computers.[1][3]


According to the NAACP, the program’s goals are:[2]

  • To mobilize the adult community for the promotion of classroom and after-school excellence
  • To recognize academic achievement among youth on par with the recognition awarded athletics
  • To provide and assist students with the necessary skills and tools to establish goals and acquire the confidence and training to make a successful contribution to society


Annual academic competitions are conducted for students in grades 9–12 at NAACP branches around the United States. Winners of the competition at each local branch are eligible for awards at the finals during the NAACP national convention.[2] The 2008 national competition was held at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.


The ACT-SO program has many corporate sponsorships from major American corporations, including McDonalds, United Parcel Service, Shell Oil, and others.[1]

Monetary awards[edit]

  • Gold medalists: $1000[2]
  • Silver medalists: $750
  • Bronze medalists: $500

Award categories[edit]

  • Sciences[1][2]
    • Biology/microbiology
    • Chemistry/biochemistry
    • Computer science
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Earth and space sciences
    • Engineering
    • Medicine and health
  • Performing arts
    • Dance
    • Dramatics
    • Music: Instrumental/Classical
    • Music: Instrumental/Contemporary
    • Music: Vocal/Classical
    • Music: Vocal/Contemporary
    • Oratory
  • Humanities
    • Music composition
    • Original Essay
    • Playwriting
    • Poetry
  • Visual arts
    • Architecture
    • Drawing
    • Filmmaking
    • Painting
    • Sculpture
  • Entrepreneurship

Notable award recipients[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g "NAACP Proudly Announces 30th Anniversary ACT-SO Medalists". National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Archived from the original on 4 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-31. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "ACT-SO: Olympics of the Mind". NAACP, Los Angeles Branch. Retrieved 2009-01-31. 
  3. ^ "ACT-SO Statistics". NAACP. Archived from the original on 4 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-31. [dead link]

External links[edit]