youth-mtv-poll_web.jpgMIAMI – Kayla Burgess didn’t know when she started studying for an NAACP-sponsored competition that she would end up a national winner. But she did. She took gold in the 2010 Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics and the win, she said, changed her life, significantly.

“I gained a great deal of knowledge on the nation’s largest and oldest civil rights organization,” said Kayla, then a senior from Miami Palmetto Senior High, about the NAACP. 

The NAACP’s ACT-SO is an achievement program, and youths prepare all year to show off their talents and compete in their academic fields. On Saturday, students will participate in the latest ACT-SO from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at Booker T. Washington Senior High School. It is free and open to the public.

The ACT-SO competition started in Miami-Dade in 1980, and has been under the auspices of Art and Hyacinth Johnson, chair and co-chair respectively, since 2007. They have dedicated all this time to the program because it benefits children.

 “We’re looking for kids to help and develop them to strive for excellence,” said Hyacinth Johnson. NAACP created ACT-SO to promote excellence among students of African descent and to recognize their achievement through an Olympics-style competition on a local and national level.

Open to students in grades 9 through 12, ACT-SO encourages students of African heritage to focus on their intellectual development and honors those who excel in the sciences, visual and performing arts, humanities, technology and business.

Students win medals of gold, silver and bronze, while showing off their intelligence. 2009 National Bronze winner Khadijah Rolle, from New World School of the Arts in Miami, enjoyed her experience through ACT-SO.

“It was an awesome experience and I met a lot of amazing people; it was a nice honor, and I was grateful to be a part of it and it looks good on my resume,” said Rolle, who is now an actress and lives in New York.

ACT-SO includes 27 categories of competition in the sciences, humanities, business and performing and visual arts. The program added culinary arts to the business category to the competition this year.

More than 260,000 young people have participated from the program since it started. It is rooted in the firm conviction that all students can succeed and compete at the same or superior levels as their counterparts in classrooms, boardrooms and laboratories across this nation and abroad, according to

In the spirit of the world Olympic Games, local ACT-SO Gold Medal winners will compete for scholarships and cash prizes during the 36th Annual ACT-SO National Finals July 17 – 20 in Las Vegas, NV.

Miami-Dade has great success in the ACT-SO competition when it comes to national winners. The city has won more than 80 national medals and continues to be on par and among the top programs in the United States.