ACT-SO is an acronym for the Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics. This local and national competition for high school students was organized over 30 years ago to encourage African American students to aspire for excellence in 26 non-athletic areas of competition. It is sponsored by the NAACP branches in communities across America. It was deemed the “Olympics of the Mind” by its founder, Vernon Jarrett, a Tennessee native who became a renown broadcast executive in Chicago, IL.
Each year high school students from Memphis area public, private, and parochial schools compete in the broad categories of Science, Humanities, Visual Arts, Performing Arts, Filmmaking/Video and Business. Local winners are honored with Olympic like medals and the first place winners receive and all expense paid trip to the National ACT-SO competition for five days in a major U.S. city. Competitors are mentored and groomed by professionals in their respective fields to ensure that they can submit their best possible entry.
Students may compete in up to three sub-categories including Entrepreneurship, Original Essay, Playwriting, Poetry, Dance, Dramatics, Oratory, Music Composition, Instrumental Music/Contemporary and Classical, Vocal Music/Contemporary and Classical, Biology/Microbiology, Chemistry/Biochemistry, computer Science, Earth & space Sciences, Engineering, Mathematics, Medicine & Health, Physics, Architecture, Drawing, Filmmaking/Video, Painting, Photography, Sculpture.
Memphis has been a consistent winner in this competition and our students have received additional recognition at nationally known music and art academies. They have found careers in their areas of competition which secured their future.
During her 42 years of service as executive secretary of the Memphis Branch NAACP, the late Maxine A. Smith never saw a glass half empty or a mind without promise. Thus when she announced her retirement in 1995, her local NAACP colleagues took great care to make sure that generations to come would continue to appreciate her contributions to the community.
Although she championed many causes, education became her second identity. Maxine set great store by her mother’s insistence that she and her brother and sister receive a formal education. She would later respond by becoming a schoolteacher and serving six terms on the school board.
The fund was established for graduating high school seniors who have participated in the ACT-SO (Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics) program. This is a one-time scholarship opportunity. All scholarship recipients will be expected to attend a reception in their honor in late May or early June.