ACT-SO: Developing and Celebrating the Academic Talents of African-American High School Students

Welcome to the informational page for the San Diego Branch of the NAACP’s ACT-SO competition.  We’re glad you’re here, whether you are an African-American High School student looking to enter, or a member of the San Diego community interested in mentoring, judging, recruiting, or assisting!

What is ACT-SO?

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.

ACT-SO includes 32 competitions in STEM, humanities, business, and performing, visual and culinary arts. Almost 300,000 young people have participated from the program since its inception.  (For a very brief description of each category, please see our Categories page.)

For forty years the mission of ACT-SO has been to prepare, recognize and reward youth of African descent who exemplify scholastic and artistic excellence.

Yeah, but SPECIFICALLY What is ACT-SO?

Students will, over the course of the school year, prepare a scientific paper, a play, an essay or other academic work (for a full listing, see our Categories page.)  The NAACP will provide mentorship and assistance all along the way.  At the end of the school year (specifically, April 27th, 2019) there will be a local showcase of student work, with expert judges.  Work that achieves the highest standard will get the student a spot in the national ACT-SO competition in Detroit, July 18th-21st.  The NAACP San Diego Branch will cover travel expenses.

The Goals of ACT-SO are:

  • To mobilize the adult community for the promotion of academic and artistic excellence.
  • To recognize creative talent and academic achievement.
  • To provide and assist students with the necessary skills to establish goals and acquire the confidence and training to make a successful contribution to society.

Important Dates:

April 27th, 2019: San Diego ACT-SO Showcase
July18th-21st, 2019: National ACT-SO Competition (Detroit, MI)

If you are an African-American high school student looking to polish and show off your skills to earn scholarship money and the potential to compete nationally, sign up today!

Are you interested in seeing African-American youth succeed?  Share what you know.  Maybe you can mentor a student in STEM or Dance.  Maybe you can help them develop business savvy.  Maybe you have life wisdom to share.  We need YOU to help our young people.  Sign up today!

The Committee

Renita Payno
- ACT-SO Co-Chair -

Renita is a veteran, the owner and sole proprietor of her own small business, and a mother of two. You will find her at many community events; just ask the ...

Kamaria Allen
- ACT-SO Committee Member -

Kamaria has degrees in English and Psychology, has extensive administrative experience and currently works as a counselor to persons with developmental disabilities, and also volunteers with children and adults. She ...

Samantha Jenkins
- Committee Member -

Jardea Jenkins
- Committee Member -

Maisha Kudumu
- ACT-SO Committee Member -

Maisha comes from a family of educators and was herself a three-time ACT-SO participant and Gold Medalist.


- Mentor - Essay, Poetry, Playwriting and Oratory -

Kamaria has degrees in English and Psychology, has extensive administrative experience and currently works as a counselor to persons with developmental disabilities, and also volunteers with children and adults. She ...

- Entrepreneurship, Humanities: Essay, Humanities: Short Story, Humanities: Written Poetry, Performing Arts: Poetry Performance -

- STEM: (Bio)Chemistry -

Elena researches brain chemistry at the Salk Institute

Angela Ledyard
- Photography -

Born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, Angela first became interested about photography after watching her grandparents capturing photos. She would then, ask her grandfather to show her how to use ...


Earl Vaults
- Music -

Earl Vaults graduated from SDSU with a BA in music. He studied the saxophone with Harvey Pittel from USC, a world renowned classical saxophonist. He's played with R&B group The ...

Tomás Gayton
- Poetry -

Tomás Gayton is a retired Civil Rights attorney and poet. His latest volume is "Jazz Heaven," a volume of Jazz Poetry.

Darwin Fishman
- Essay, Poetry -

Vera Sanchez
- Poetry, Essay, Painting -

  Vera Sanchez is an adjunct professor of English at Grossmont College, and a Social Work Counselor for the San Diego Regional Center.

Ryn Corbeil
- Poetry, STEM: Computer Science -

Ryn Corbeil is making the jump from an Engineering career to Poetry. He likes to refer to this as "going over to the light side."

- Photography -

As a wellness coach, fitness instructor, model; Vanessa A. Lee incorporates her background in therapeutic recreation as a vehicle to motivate others on their wellness journey.  In March 2017, Vanessa ...

Debashis Sahoo
- Computer Science, Mathematics -

Assistant Professor Department of Pediatrics Department of Computer Science and Engineering University of California San Diego Dr Sahoo is a groundbreaking researcher in the overlap of genetics, medicine, and computation.

Johnnierenee Nia Nelson
- Poetry -

Award-winning writer Johnnierenee Nia Nelson has written five books of Kwanzaa poetry. Her first, “A Quest for Kwanzaa”, published in 1988, was heralded as the authoritative genesis of Kwanzaa literature. ...

Buki Domingos
- Music -

Buki Domingos is a very versatile singer/songwriter, instrumentalist, and entertainer with over two decades of stage experience. Buki has an Album “To God in Prayer” and a Single “A Better ...

Anya Gallaccio
- Visual Arts -

Anya Gallaccio emerged in the late '80s as part of the group of young British artists from Goldsmiths College in London. Since her first appearance in the historic 1988 Freeze ...

DeShaun Smith
- Music -

Ingrid Asplund
- Visual Arts, Essay -

Ingrid Asplund received her bachelor's degree in history of art from Bryn Mawr College in 2014. In the several years following she served as a missionary for the Church of ...

Michael Trigilio
- Visual Arts -

Michael Trigilio is a multimedia artist living in San Diego. Born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, he received his B.A. in Humanities from the University of Texas at San ...

Monica Honoré
- Oratory -

Monica Honoré is a career civil servant and community volunteer. She has worked for the City of San Diego Parks and Recreation Department for over 20 years and is a ...

Clovis Honoré
- Oratory -

Born and raised in South Central Los Angeles, Clovis Honoré grew up amidst the social turbulence of the 1960s and the cultural renaissance of the 1970s on the west side ...

Paul Seckendorf
- Computer Science -

Paul, beside being a noted South Seas Rescue Surfer, has worked as an Engineer for Qualcomm Incorporated for many years.

Philomena Lopez
- Visual Arts -

Philomena Lopez is a doctoral student in the Art History, Theory, and Criticism program at UCSD, with a specialization in Latin American and Chicano art. Philomena earned her BA in ...

Rajesh Gupta
- Computer Science -

Rajesh Gupta is a professor and holder of the QUALCOMM endowed chair in Embedded Microsystems in the Department of Computer Science & Engineering at UC San Diego, California. He leads ...

Sally Long
- Photography -

Scott Ludwin
- Computer Science, Mathematics -

Scott worked for many years at Qualcomm as an expert in software for embedded systems.

Shangping Ren
- Computer Science -

Research Interest: Cyber-Physical Systems, Real-Time Scheduling and Cloud Computing

Tarek Elgindi
- Mathematics -

Tarek Elgindi received his Ph.D. from New York University in 2014. After graduation he received a postdoctoral fellowship form the National Science Foundation to work with the fluids group in ...

Tatiana Ortiz-Rubio
- Visual Arts -

M.F.A., New York Academy of Art, New York. (Cum Laude) B.A. University of San Diego, Art History and Visual Arts (Summa Cum Laude) Tatiana Ortiz-Rubio is an Adjunct Faculty, who ...

Todd Kemp
- Mathematics -

RESEARCH INTERESTS Probability Theory, Mathematical Physics, Functional Analysis, and Combinatorics: random matrix theory and free probability; stochastic analysis; quantum information theory; Yang–Mills theory; analysis on Lie groups; functional inequalities (esp. ...

Michael Alston
- Mathematics -

“Dr. Mike” is an electrical engineer at Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. specializing in the physical layout design of Very Large Scale Integrated (VLSI) circuits.  He earned Electrical Engineering degrees at Carnegie ...

Our Partners

Our sponsors dig in and help us, sharing both the work and the cost of the ACT-SO program. We are so grateful to them for helping give opportunity to our African-American high school students!  If you are interested in partnering with us, please send email to [email protected].

Our Sponsors

We are very grateful to our sponsors for helping give opportunity to our African-American high school students through their generous contributions!  If you are interested in sponsoring us, please send email to [email protected].

ACT-SO related events:

Sat, Sep 28, 2019
  • ACT-SO Visits the San Diego Art Institute (details)
    Sat, Sep 28, 2019  12:00 pm - 2:00 pm
    San Diego Art Institute 1439 El Prado, San Diego, CA 92101, United States

Fri, Oct 25, 2019
  • ACT-SO Visits Black Xpression (details)
    Fri, Oct 25, 2019  8:00 pm - 11:00 pm

Thu, Dec 5, 2019
  • ACT-SO Committee Meeting (details)
    Thu, Dec 5, 2019  12:30 pm - 1:30 pm
    The Dojo Cafe 4350 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, CA 92105

    In case of rain:
    City Heights Library
    4385 Wightman St, San Diego, CA 92105

Keep in Touch!


ACT-SO Xpresses its Blackness

8pm – ? October 25, 2019 ACT-SO will once again be visiting the Black Xpression open mic night. Check back for details…
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ACT-SO Visits the San Diego Art Institute

12pm – 2pm September 28, 2019 FORGING TERRITORIES features African-American and Latinx members of the LGBTQ community pioneering in a frequently inhospitable land.  It presents ...
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Watch: ACT-SO Visits Casa del Rey Moro

Every month ACTSO participates in an enrichment activity. On August 30th, we sponsored a tour of the African Museum in Old Town.🎓 Our next adventure ...
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Setting ACT-SO 2019-2020 in Motion!

With our tour of Casa del Rey Moro (sorry, it’s full) ACT-SO is getting under way for the 2019-2020 season. We will be returning to ...
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ACT-SO Student Observer Program

We’re excited to announce our ACT-SO National Student Observer Program! As you know, students who win Gold at our Showcase in April get a free ...
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