NAACP brings talent competition to county
The Charles County NAACP is starting off the new year by getting youth fired up about new talent competition opportunities.
Now is the time for young people in Charles County to showcase their hidden talents in the Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) competition, which gives them exposure as they compete locally and nationally.
Youth in the county have previously partnered with the Prince George’s County ACT-SO competi- tors. Now those students can stand on their own in the Charles County division because the Charles County NAACP ACT-SO has become registered at a national level.
Janice Wilson, presi- dent of the Charles County NAACP, said it will be a challenge to engage young people and get them involved, but the organization is more than willing to rise to the chal- lenge.
“I know that Afri- can-American children are creative. They have untapped potential and this ACT-SO program will provide them with an opportunity to tap into their talents outside of the school system. The arts in Charles County has faded. There are not a lot of opportunities to show- case their talents which is why the Charles County NAACP recently request- ed funding for youth programs,” Wilson said. “We are going to give these youth an opportunity to do it all — sing, dance, rap, spoken word, poetry reading, acting. I know Af- rican-American kids have these talents. We just have to identify them, encour- age them, nurture them and get them through the ACT-SO competition.”
According to the NAACP ACT-SO, the Olympics is a yearlong achievement program designed to recruit, stim- ulate and encourage high academic and cultural achievement among Afri- can-American high school students. The mission of the program has been to prepare, recognize and reward youth of African descent who exemplify scholastic and artistic ex- cellence.
ACT-SO includes 29 competitions in STEM, humanities, business and performing, visual and culinary arts. Near- ly 300,000 young people have participated in the program since its inception.
Dyotha Sweat, co-chair of the Charles County NAACP ACT-SO, said with the anticipation of the NAACP national con- vention being held in Baltimore this year, it would be a missed opportunity if the county’s organization did not participate. She believes launching this competition countywide will create other avenues for youth in the county to become trailblazers.
“We felt that it’s no bet- ter time than now to get the young folks involved,” Sweat said. “This is something that we felt is im- portant to allow young people to showcase their talents and show them in a positive light. This is their destiny and opportunity to let the world know that when you give a blank canvas to a young person and tell them to express themselves, the adults are amazed at what the youth can came up with. What happens this year will catapult us to 2018 and beyond.”
During September to March, local ACT-SO programs will conduct mentoring and scholastic enrichment activities. The first round of the competition will be held in April and then the winners will compete nationally from April to July.
The Charles County NAACP ACT-SO will have a local award ceremony where the winners will receive gold, bronze and silver medals. The local gold medal winners will receive an all expense paid trip to the NAACP national convention to compete in the national competition.
Krystle Lewis, co-chair of the Charles County NAACP ACT-SO, said the organization came up with a motto — Inspire, Promote & Reward Minorities — for students to represent during the competition.
“We live in Charles County, a place where people may not know where that is. This competition gives the youth an opportunity to get in front of thousands of people to showcase their talent. Some of these competition areas lead to scholarships and money to move forward in life. We are promoting it as becoming an academic Olympian representing your school, county and state,” Sweat said.
Wanda Wills Woodland, Charles County NAACP youth advisor, has previously worked with the Prince George’s County ACT-SO. She said the organization hopes to get at least 10 competitors to sign up and train with mentors in order to better project their talents. The orga- nization is also encour- aging STEAM students from Charles County Public Schools to compete.
“The students who par- ticipated in the Prince George’s County competition are still talking about it. They talk about how awesome it was to compete and how they were taught to perfect their talents and meet other kids,” Wills Woodland said.
Waldorf resident Kris-tinee Tate was a previous competitor from North Point High School who participated in the Prince George’s County ACT-SO competition in 2014. Tate did an acting monologue about a slave who escaped the South and gained her freedom by going north.
“I wanted to do something that gave a voice to previous African-Amer- ican citizens. I took acting throughout high school but I noticed there weren’t a lot of oppor- tunities for specific African-American experiences to be expressed. The thousands that heard my monologue were able to connect with it and saw the importance of that monologue and expressing that woman’s story,” Tate said.
Tate said the competition was amazing and empowering because it motivated her to want to continue to work on her craft. She said ACT-SO is a good platform for local youth to express themselves in different ways and build up their confidence.
Participants have until Feb. 1 to sign up for the Charles County ACT-SO. The next open house will be at the McDonalds in Waldorf on Jan. 14 from 10 a.m. to noon. For more information, contact Charles County NAACP ACT-SO at actso. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prince George’s County NAACP President Bob Ross, left; competitors Amber Cherry, Humanities: Playwright, Silver Metal; Kristinee Tate, Performing Arts: Dramatics, Bronze Metal; Lauren Wills, Humanities: Poetry-Written, Bronze Metal; and Wanda Wills Woodland, Charles County NAACP youth advisor, pose for a picture at the Prince George’s County ACT-SO award ceremony in May 2014.