Four talented Madison-area youths will advance to the national NAACP ACT-SO competition to compete in multiple categories after earning top honors at the 2021 NAACP Dane County local competition for ACT-SO on April 18.
Lamontae Burrell, Hunter Stephenson, Demi Stokes and Kaebren Walker all won gold medals and are headed to the national NAACP ACT-SO competition July 7-11.
NAACP ACT-SO (Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics) 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.
Frances Huntley-Cooper, NAACP Dane County ACT-SO Committee Chair, tells Madison365 that the NAACP was excited to have key leaders in the Madison community like Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi and MMSD Superintendent Dr. Carlton Jenkins join NAACP Branch President Greg Jones to deliver inspiring messages and greetings at the event, held virtually this year.
“Not only was the theme of having the firsts – the first African American Lt. Governor and the first African American MMSD superintendent, there were also HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) graduates and the Divine 9 (Black Greek Letter sororities and fraternities) represented as role models for our students to see that they can achieve and be whatever they can dream,” Huntley-Cooper says. “This was a powerful group of leaders all assembled together.
The virtual audience at the NAACP Dane County ACT-SO competition kept the chat lively with continuous shout-outs as proud members of the Divine 9 or as HBCU alumnus. They watched students compete in a variety of categories including humanities, STEM, performing arts, music and more. The top honors went to:
- Demi Stokes, a freshman from Waunakee High School, won a gold medal in humanities for poetry written
- Hunter Stephenson, a junior at Madison Country Day, won gold in humanities for original essay and a bronze in STEM for biology/microbiology
- Kaebren Walker, a junior from Madison Country Day, won gold medals in STEM for engineering and in visual arts for drawing
- Lamontae Burrell, a senior at Madison Memorial, won a gold medal in performing arts for dance contemporary
“Winning gold in both categories felt great. It was nice to see all my hard work pay off in the end,” Kaebren Walker tells Madison365. “I’m excited and grateful for the chance to represent our branch and state at nationals this year.”
Other medalists and honorees included:
- Aidan Nuñez-Clark, a freshman from Verona, won silver in business entrepreneurship.
- Awa Phatty, a junior at Madison Memorial won bronze in humanities for poetry written
- Elijah Edwards, a sophomore at Madison Memorial High School, won bronze in performing arts for dramatics, bronze in performing arts for musical vocal contemporary and honorable mention in humanities for poetry written
- Walker Stephenson, a junior at Country Day School, won a bronze medal for performing arts in the music vocal classical category
Lamontae Burrell is the only senior of all the competitors.
“We wish him the best in his next journey to college,” Huntley-Cooper says. “All my other students, I look forward to working with them as we move into 2022 competition year.
“Our students all deserve a round of applause for finishing strong in their respective competitions during this health and racial pandemic,” Huntley-Cooper continues. “We were thrilled to see students take on STEM and business competitions, which was new for us to host. A round of applause also goes to the volunteers who help us each year host this program: eight mentors, four workshop presenters, 26 judges, parents, schools, sponsors, supporters, media coverage and my ACT-SO committee members who work behind the scene to make this a reality.”