published Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

NAACP seeks Chattanooga students for academic Olympics

Jacorey Elston signs up for ACT-SO reminders at Notre Dame High School. ACT-SO  is a yearlong enrichment program designed to stimulate high academic and cultural achievement among African-American high school students.
Jacorey Elston signs up for ACT-SO reminders at Notre Dame High School. ACT-SO is a yearlong enrichment program designed to stimulate high academic and cultural achievement among African-American high school students.
Photo by Alex Washburn.
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  • photo
    Vincent Phipps talks to students about ACT-SO at Notre Dame High School on Thursday. ACT-SO is a yearlong enrichment program designed to stimulate high academic and cultural achievement among African-American high school students.
    Photo by Alex Washburn /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

  • photo
    Vincent Phipps of ACT-SO discusses strategies to get busy students involved with ACT-SO with teacher Candy Corneliussen at Notre Dame High School on Thursday. ACT-SO is a yearlong enrichment program designed to stimulate high academic and cultural achievement among African-American high school students.
    Photo by Alex Washburn /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

  • photo
    Vincent Phipps (left) helps Shaqualm McCoy, Kywaun Davenport and Stedmony Ford (left to right) sign up for ACT-SO reminders at Notre Dame High School on Thursday. ACT-SO is a yearlong enrichment program designed to stimulate high academic and cultural achievement among African-American high school students.
    Photo by Alex Washburn /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

IF YOU GO

What: ACT-SO orientation

When: 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Jan. 21

Where: Chattanooga Center for Creative Arts, 1301 Dallas Road

Information: Call Vincent Phipps at 423-400-1040 or visit www.chattanooganaacp.com

Cheryl Norris Sanders dreamed of being a professional singer-songwriter and poet, but she didn't know people who could tell her how to do it when she was growing up in Chattanooga in the 1960s and '70s.

Now as a committee member for the NAACP's Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics, or ACT-SO, she is one of several people making sure this generation of youth has more opportunities.

"ACT-SO gives them opportunity to see where their path can lead, to actually see someone who has done what they dream and they're successful at it," Norris said.

NAACP members are recruiting young people to participate in ACT-SO. Students may compete in 26 categories in the sciences, humanities, business and performing and visual arts. ACT-SO officials are hosting an orientation for students in January.

"ACT-SO is an opportunity to display your greatness," said Vincent Phipps, ACT-SO's executive director.

More than 260,000 students have participated nationally since it started in 1978. About 50 to 60 students a year participate locally, but Phipps said he wants to increase participation to 100 students in 2012.

About 20 students signed up for the program when Phipps spoke at Notre Dame High School, while another 21 signed up at Volkswagen's diversity fair this month.

"Students have a chance not only to do what they love, but to be rewarded through scholarship and opportunities," Phipps said.

Students work with mentors and practice their skills throughout the semester, getting feedback about their talent from judges who are experienced in the craft.

"Try it. Sign up. Do it," said 17-year-old Dakari Kelly, who participated this year in a national ACT-SO competition in Los Angeles.

The Center for Creative Arts senior said he still talks with people he met at the competition, and his friends include one high school student saxophonist who played with Kenny G.

If the people at the competition aren't already famous, they're on their way to becoming famous, said Dakari, who won a gold medal in contemporary music during the local ACT-SO competition for playing the double bass.

Alysha Norwood won a gold medal in the local competition for photography and also competed in Los Angeles.

"It's fun. It's a learning experience," she said. "It's competitive, so make sure you know your material and practice."

She said the experience has allowed her to take pictures for a local health magazine and given her an opportunity to recite poetry at the Volkswagen diversity fair.

"I can brag on these kids all day long," Phipps said.

Students participate in a local competition in March and July, with the top performers going on to the national competition in Houston, where they can win a laptop computer and $5,000 cash.

Better still, Phipps said, they get to be in the same room with people who have become successful at their craft.

Grammy-winning singer Alicia Keys, actress Jada Pickett Smith and actor Blair Underwood were among the celebrities at past ACT-SO competitions, Norris said.

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about Yolanda Putman...

Yolanda Putman has been a reporter at the Times Free Press for 11 years. She covers housing and previously covered education and crime. Yolanda is a Chattanooga native who has a master’s degree in communication from the University of Tennessee and a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Alabama State University. She previously worked at the Lima (Ohio) News. She enjoys running, reading and writing and is the mother of one son, Tyreese. She has also ...

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PinkSalmon said...

I'd wish the NAACP would interact more with its poor minority population. This puts on a great show, but lacks addressing real issues troubling to poor minorities.

November 29, 2011 at 7:17 a.m.
CBIKAS said...

This is a great program. Chattanooga is lucky to have someone of Vincent Phipps caliber running it. Mr. Phipps was offered an opportunity to be on the National Act-So Committee last year but turned it down so he could continue to support Hamilton County's minority students. Thanks for all that you do Vincent. And thank you Yolanda for taking the time to write this article.

November 29, 2011 at 4:01 p.m.
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