NAACP brings tal­ent com­pe­ti­tion to county

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @Tif­fIndyNews

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. cc­naacp@gmail.com.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

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.

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