About ACT-SO

What is ACT-SO?

The ACT-SO program is a learning experience, first and foremost. ACT-SO stands for Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technology, and Scientific Olympics. It is the program through which we mobilize the adult community to promote, prepare, recognize and reward academic and artistic excellence among high school youth. The benefits ACT-SO students receive from the enrichment and mentorship components include substantial assistance toward the development of their ACT-SO projects and valuable tools to assist them throughout their education.

Specifically, we provide and assist students with the necessary skills to establish goals, develop confidence, and strive to pursue excellence in their field of interest(s) so that ultimately, they become successful contributors to society. The focus of a viable and effective local ACT-SO program is on enrichment and mentorship. Students work with ACT-SO mentors who help them develop projects throughout the year. Local ACT-SO programs also provide ACT-SO students with enrichment opportunities, such as workshops, tutorials, and field trips.

Students who participate in ACT-SO, can compete with other students in up to 3 of 33 categories which include STEM, Business, Humanities, Performing, Visual & Culinary Arts. The local competition serves to showcase the hard work students have put in all year long. ACT-SO students who receive gold medals at the local competition qualify to compete at the National Competition where they can receive scholarships awards and prizes provided by national sponsors.


ACT-SO is choosing something unique… just like you. There is no other program that is centered around the uniqueness of you! When you participate in ACT-SO you are saying you are making a commitment to excellence in academia and cultural achievements. ACT-SO is also known as “Olympics of the Mind” because you compete with your mind rather than athletically.

Skills learned from ACT-SO include but are not limited to Research; time management; presentation; communication; problem-solving; networking; failing forward; development of a project with excellence as the goal.

Brief History of National ACT-SO Program

1976: Vernon Jarrett presented his concept for ACT-SO an “Olympics of the Mind” to the DuSable Museum of African American History.

1977: The NAACP Board of Directors adopted a resolution to accept ACT-SO as an official sponsored NAACP youth achievement program that would be sponsored by local NAACP units, conduct an annual local competition and bring a contingency of gold medalists to the annual National ACT-SO Competition.1978: The first National ACT-SO competition was held in Portland, Oregon with seven cities participating: Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New Orleans, and St. Louis.

2004: Mr. Vernon Jarrett, the ACT-SO founder, lost his battle with cancer at the age of 82.

Present: ACT-SO sustains approximately 200 programs nationally. Over the past 42 (forty-two)  years, over 250,000 students have participated in the program.

NAACP ACT-SO continues to promote growth, excellence, and innovation to position ACT-SO competitors as “Leaders For Tomorrow and Beyond.”

Local Cincinnati History

Vernon Jarrett, ACT-SO FOUNDER