ACT-SO New Jersey

What is ACT-SO?

What is ACT-SO

ACT-SO, a major program of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), is an acronym that stands for Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics.

ACT-SO, often referred to as the “Olympics of the Mind”, seeks to promote the following among high school students:

  • Positive self-esteem
  • Positive interaction between our youth and the adult professional community
  • Positive academic and artistic excellence
  • High academic and cultural achievement

Students who participate in ACT-SO, can compete with other students  in up to 3 of 33 categories which includes STEM, Business, Humanities, Performing, Visual & Culinary Arts. The local competition serves to showcase the hard work students have put in all year long. ACT-SO Students who receive gold medals on at the local competition qualify to compete at the National Competition where they can receive scholarships awards and prizes provided by national sponsors.



Established in Chicago in 1977 and implemented citywide in New York City in 1987, ACT-SO is a non-profit program operating under the administrative aegis of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The New York City ACT-SO program has two major components—regularly scheduled enrichment workshops and the “Olympics of the Mind” competition and ceremony. During the workshops, which are held during the academic year, volunteer coaches work with students on projects and assignments designed to enhance the students’ knowledge and skills in the Sciences, Arts and Humanities. Additional components of the workshops are seminars and trips designed to introduce students to their cultural heritage and other workshops to prepare them for college and employment. The program culminates with the “Olympics of the Mind” competition and awards ceremony which give the students an opportunity to showcase their projects and to be recognized for their achievements.

Since the inception of the program, over 7,000 New York City high school students have participated in the local workshops and competitions. During the school year, New York City ACT-SO expects to work with approximately 450 students in 28 separate workshops, and will take the first place medalists from each of the ACT-SO categories to the national competition.

Why Support ACT-SO

Why Support ACT-SO

African-Americans represent over 70 percent of all students attending New York City public schools. America’s competitiveness and economic stability in the 21st century depends upon improving the quality of education and employment potential for the broadest possible spectrum of this population. Today’s investment in the African-American high school students of New York City is an investment in the future long term success of New York’s corporate and small business communities.

New York City ACT-SO has made a difference by providing a positive environment for African-American youth. The impact is evident among the former participants in the form of their achievements, enthusiasm, increased confidence and vision for success. A review of past New York City ACT-SO activities indicates that approximately 100 percent of all participants completed high school, and approximately 90 percent of all local medalists entered college while the others pursued vocational careers.

The Challenge

The Challenge

ACT-SO is more than an academic program for high schools students where only a select few display their abilities. ACT-SO is an attempt to thwart the vicious cycle of low expectation and low scholastic achievement that is plaguing communities throughout the nation. In order to achieve our goals, we need to obtain the financial support of all civic-minded individuals and corporations.


The goal of New York City ACT-SO is to encourage earnest effort so students gain the confidence and skills they will need to thrive as adults. Our primary goal is to continue and expand not only the number of students we service at the high school level, but to more aggressively reach out to 8th grade students to introduce them to the rewards of academic and artistic endeavors.

Pictures by

Jeffrey Gamble, ACT-SO alumnus, and Gerald Peart, NYC ACT-SO Photography Coach 

ACT-SO Goals

The mission of ACT-SO is to prepare, recognize and reward all participating youth who exemplify scholastic and artistic excellence.

The ACT-SO goals are:

  1. To mobilize the adult community for the promotion of academic and artistic excellence among high school youth.
  2. To recognize academic and artistic talent achievements among these students.
  3. To provide and assist students with the necessary skills to establish goals, develop confidence and strive to pursue excellence in their field of interest(s) to ultimately become successful contributors to society.

The ACT-SO program is a learning experience, first and foremost. The focus of a viable and effective local ACT-SO program is on enrichment and mentorship. Students work with ACT-SO mentors who help them develop projects throughout the year. Local ACT-SO programs also provide ACT-SO students with enrichment opportunities, such as workshops, tutorials, and field trips.

The benefits ACT-SO students receive from the enrichment and mentorship components include substantial assistance toward the development of their ACT-SO projects and valuable tools to assist them throughout their education