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Dane County NAACP will host special recognition of NAACP ACT-SO Class of 2020 on Saturday

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Dane County NAACP ACT-SO students

The NAACP Dane County Branch will virtually host a special recognition of NAACP ACT-SO Class of 2020 on Saturday, May 30, 11 a.m. NAACP ACT-SO is a year-long youth program, informally named the “Olympics of the Mind,” that recognizes and awards young people who have demonstrated academic and cultural achievement.

The special guest for Saturday’s event will be Larry Brown, Jr., NAACP National Director of ACT-SO Empowerment Programs. Community members can watch it here.

“We will be hosting a virtual recognition ceremony to honor our 10 NAACP ACT-SO students who worked hard on various projects and they will find out on Saturday if they got the gold,” Frances Huntley-Cooper, 2019-20 chair of the local Dane County NAACP ACT-SO, tells Madison365. “Gold takes them to the next level.”

Frances Huntley-Cooper

The NAACP’s ACT-SO program is designed to recruit, stimulate, and encourage academic excellence, personal development and cultural achievement among African-American high school students. 

Normally the in-person celebration is hosted at Edgewood College. However this year because of the coronavirus pandemic it will be a virtual event. Not all of the students were able to make it through – some had to focus on academics, some were affected by family issues and by problems brought on by the pandemic.

“We are just excited that these 10 students prevailed through COVID-19,” Huntley-Cooper says. “We have some kids who competed who are going through Ramadan and its hard for them in addition to the COVID-19 and not having a normal school environment because they are online.

“For them to still persist – and excel – in this is just amazing to me,” she adds.

What happens next for the gold medal winners is still a bit up in the air. Every July, the National ACT-SO Competition and Ceremony is held at a national location to bring together students from all over the country to compete for high honors and great prizes.

“Normally, they compete at the national level next,” Huntley-Cooper says. “We don’t know at the moment when that date will be. All of the units will have until June 6 to complete their virtual competitions.”

Larry Brown, Jr.
National Director, NAACP ACT-SO

The keynote speaker, Larry Brown Jr., will hopefully give some information on what is next when he speaks at the recognition event.

“We are very lucky to have Larry Brown Jr., the national director for NAACP ACT-SO for the event,” Huntley-Cooper says. “We are so excited to have him.

“With this virtual awards ceremony on Saturday, we are creating our own way to recognize students because so many of them have lost everything in terms of their proms, their graduations, their celebrations,” adds Huntley-Cooper, who will host Saturday’s event. “We’re trying to make it fun and to thank all of them for doing this, for staying strong, and for moving forward. This was a really great group of students. I’m so proud of each and every one of them.”

ACT-SO includes 32 competitions in STEM, humanities, business, and performing, visual and culinary arts. Almost 300,000 young people have participated from the program since its inception. For the Recognition of NAACP ACT-SO Class of 2020, there are three general categories that students participated in: humanities, the performing arts and the visual arts.

“In the humanities, we had music composition, original essays, poetry written and short story,” Huntley-Cooper says. “For performing arts, we had drama, music, instrumental contemporary and vocal contemporary and poetry performance. For visual arts, we had drawing and painting.”

This is now the 6th year the Dane County NAACP has entered the National NAACP ACT-SO competition. During the first five years, they’ve have had three silver medal winners at the national competition. At last year’s 41st National NAACP ACT-SO Competition & Ceremony in Detroit, Danielle Crim won a silver medal for music competition and Maurissa Powell won a silver medal for dance/ballet. Amadou Kromah won a silver medal for photography in 2017.

“We have had some great success at the national level competing against students from Chicago, New York, Boston, Philadelphia … all the big cities,” Huntley-Cooper says. “So that’s incredible. That’s amazing.”