Home Local News NAACP Dane County ACT-SO students shine at national competition

NAACP Dane County ACT-SO students shine at national competition


NAACP Dane County ACT-SO students had a great weekend at the 45th National ACT-SO Competition & Awards Ceremony July 14-17 in Atlantic City, N.J. highlighted by the “608 Scholars” bringing home gold medals in the NAACP ACT-SO Delta Air Line Social Media Case Study Competition’s inaugural year.

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. Teams compete in regional competitions across the nation before advancing to the national competition. This year’s national competition theme was “Bold and Brilliant.”

The “608 Scholars” competed against teams from everywhere in the U.S. in the NAACP ACT-SO Delta Air Line Social Media Case Study Competition where they worked across disciplines to create world-class social media strategies for Delta Air Lines.

“We won first place for the inaugural year of this event, so that was really cool,” Frances Huntley-Cooper, NAACP Dane County ACT-SO Committee Chair, tells Madison365. “We were up against [teams from] Atlanta, Philadelphia, Detroit … we were up against a lot of big cities. So it was such a thrill to win.”

Hunter Stephenson

The “608 Scholars,”  representing the NAACP Dane County 36AB branch, included Hunter Stephenson of Madison Country Day School, who will be attending Brown University in the fall, EJ Van de Grift, a senior at Verona Area High School, and Ancha Barry and Ramatoulie Barry, juniors at Madison Country Day School.

“The team ended up winning $8,000 for first place — so $2,000 per student,” Huntley-Cooper says. “So that was very nice.”

On top of that, Stephenson won a silver medal in the Microbiology/Biology STEM category.

Stephenson was also one of the 40 recipients of a Write Her Future Scholarship, powered by Lancôme, one of many funding opportunities available to Black students and students of color through the NAACP Inspire Initiatives. This scholarship is intended for Black students and students of color, who identify as female, pursuing an undergraduate degree.

“I can’t thank NAACP enough for partnering with Lancôme to give graduating girls opportunity to get $10,000 scholarships,” Huntley-Cooper says.

The NAACP national ACT-SO program has been serving communities throughout the United States for 45 years, touching over 300,000 students. Locally, the Dane County Branch of the NAACP has been part of the NAACP ACT-SO program for 13 years.  

National ACT-SO Director Larry Brown celebrates with Madison’s gold medal-winning scholars including (l-r)
Ramatoulie Barry, EJ Van de Grift, Hunter Stephenson, and Ancha Barry

Founded by Vernon Jarrett in 1978, the NAACP’s Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological, and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) is a yearlong achievement program designed to recruit, stimulate, and encourage high academic and cultural achievement among African American high school students. This year’s national competition featured 33 competitions in STEM, humanities, business, and performing, visual, and culinary arts, plus two pilot competitions in sustainability, and social media campaigns.

“There was so much positive energy and so much great talent at this event … it was amazing to be around,” Huntley-Cooper says. “The theme was ‘Bold & Brilliant’ and these kids were definitely bold and brilliant and I like to say beautiful, too.”

The 46th National ACT-SO Competition & Awards Ceremony will be held July 27-30, 2023, in Boston. Huntley-Cooper says that that the ACT-SO program is a wonderful opportunity for local students in grades 9-12, and those who are interested in the program can e-mail her at ACTSODANE@gmail.com or call (608)571-4351.