For more information, contact 

Scott Green, ACT-SO Chair

(501) 773-1824

What is ACT-SO?

ACT-SO is a year-long enrichment program designed to recruit, stimulate, improve and encourage high academic and cultural achievement among Black high school students. ACT-SO is an acronym that stands for Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics. It is a major youth initiative of the NAACP that provides a forum through which youth of African descent can demonstrate academic, artistic and scientific prowess and expertise, thereby gaining the same recognition often only reserved for entertainers and athletes.

The ACT-SO program centers around the dedication and commitment of community volunteers and business leaders to serve as mentors and coaches to promote academic and artistic excellence among Black students. The categories of competition are STEM, humanities, performing arts, visual arts, business, and culinary.

The ACT-SO program is intended to be a learning experience, first and foremost. The focus of the Little Rock ACT-SO program is on enrichment and mentorship. Students work with ACT-SO mentors from August to April to develop their projects and performances for the local competition. Local ACT-SO programs also provide ACT-SO students with enrichment opportunities, such as workshops, tutorials, and field trips.  


The local competition serves to showcase the hard work students have put in all year long. Students receive medals provided by the local and regional sponsors and contributors. ACT-SO students who receive gold medals on the local level then compete at the national competition where they receive scholarships and other rewards provided by local, regional and national sponsors.   

Who is Eligible to Compete?

High School students of African descent, who are citizens of the United States, enrolled in grades 9-12 and are amateurs in the categories of competition.

Our Mission

The mission of the ACT-SO (Academic, Cultural, Technological, & Scientific Olympics) competition is to overcome the vicious cycle of low scholastic expectations and achievement that plague 

underserved high school students, strengthen academic skills, inspire the confidence they will need to succeed as adults, and offer individualized academic mentorship and diverse enrichment activities of where they are in short supply in some Little Rock high schools.

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

Our History

Vernon Jarrett, a renowned author, and journalist initiated the ACT-SO program as a non-profit program operating under the administrative aegis of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to promote and reward academic achievers the same way sports heroes are honored.


ACT-SO was established in Chicago, IL in 1977, and the first national ACT-SO competition was held in 1978 in Portland, Oregon.  ACT-SO was introduced to Little Rock in 1987 with two major components — regularly scheduled enrichment workshops, and a showcase competition and ceremony which gives students an opportunity to present their talents and display their projects to be recognized for their achievements.


During the workshops, which are held during the academic year, volunteer coaches work with students on projects and assignments designed to enhance the students’ knowledge and skills in the Sciences, Arts, and Humanities. Additional components of the workshops are seminars and trips designed to introduce students to their cultural heritage and other workshops to prepare them for college and employment.

Since the inception of the program, over 7,000 high school students have participated in the local workshops and competitions nationwide. During the school year, Little Rock ACT-SO expects to work with approximately 300 students in 28 separate workshops and will offer first-place medalists from each of the ACT-SO categories an opportunity to compete at the national competition.

Our Goal

The goal of Little Rock ACT-SO is to encourage earnest effort so students gain the confidence and skills they will need to thrive as adults. Our primary goal is to continue and expand not only the number of students we serve at the high school level but to more aggressively reach out to 8th-grade students to introduce them to the rewards of academic and artistic endeavors.

The goals of ACT-SO are:

  1. To mobilize the adult community for the promotion of academic and artistic excellence.

  2. To recognize creative talent and academic achievement.

  3. 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.

The Challenge

ACT-SO is more than an academic program for high school students where only a select few display their abilities. ACT-SO is an attempt to thwart the vicious cycle of low expectations and low scholastic achievement that is plaguing communities throughout the nation. In order to achieve our goals, we need to obtain the financial support of all civic-minded individuals and corporations.

The Competition

ACT-SO includes 32 categories of competition in the sciences, humanities, business, and performing and visual arts. Students can select up to 3 categories of competition from a total of 32 offerings. More than 260,000 young people have participated in the program since its inception.

Local Activities:

  • August:   Local programs kick-off annual ACT-SO recap

  • September through April: The recruitment and mentoring of contestants with enrichment activities

  • February: Preliminary competitions if necessary

  • April:  Local ACT-SO showcase competitions

Gold medalists (those with scores between 95-100 in their category) from the Showcase are invited to compete on a national level. The National Competition, held every July in conjunction with the NAACP National Convention, is the ACT-SO culminating event.

National Competition Dates

  • April through July:   Students continue their local mentorship and enrichment programs to prepare for the National Competition.

  • July:   Annual activities culminate with National Competition and Awards Ceremony

Why Support ACT-SO

African-Americans represent over 70 percent of all students attending Little Rock City public schools. America’s competitiveness and economic stability in the 21st century depend upon improving the quality of education and employment potential for the broadest possible spectrum of this population. Today’s investment in the Black high school students in Little Rock City is an investment in the future long term success of Little Rock’s corporate and small business communities.

Little Rock ACT-SO has made a difference by providing a positive environment for African-American youth. The impact is evident among the former participants in the form of their achievements, enthusiasm, increased confidence and vision for success. A review of past Little Rock ACT-SO activities indicates that approximately 100 percent of all participants completed high school, and approximately 90 percent of all local medalists entered college while the others pursued vocational careers.

Who Sponsors ACT-SO

ACT-SO is sponsored by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. However, ACT-SO depends on the dedication and commitment of schools, local businesses, community organizations, churches, foundations, major corporations, and individuals.

Participation Opportunities

ACT-SO is a community-based program that provides multiple opportunities for parents, teachers, community volunteers, and business leaders to serve as coaches, judges, and sources of other support for the students’ growth and achievement. Community members may also participate as chairpersons, mentors, sponsors, organizers, competitors, benefactors, educational partners, etc. 


For more detailed criteria and information about how to get involved, please contact the Little Rock Branch ACT-SO office.