High school students who are citizens of the United States, enrolled in grades 9-12 and are amateurs in the categories of competition are able to participate.


The ACT-SO program is intended to be a learning experience, first and foremost. 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.

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.

The local competition serves to showcase the hard work students have put in all year long. Students receive medals and prizes 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 national sponsors.
ACT-SO Brochure

Vernon Jarrett

Vernon Jarrett (1913-2004), a renowned author and journalist, initiated the idea of a program that would promote and reward academic achievers the same way sports heroes are honored. The first national ACT-SO competition was held in 1978 in Portland Oregon.

ACT-SO Historical Timeline

  • 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, ACT-SO founder, lost his battle with cancer at the age of 82.
  • Present: ACT-SO sustains approximately 200 programs nationally. Over the past forty-four years, over 300,000 have participated in the program
  • 2016 and Beyond: NAACP ACT-SO continues to promote growth, excellence and innovation to position ACT-SO competitors as “Leaders Today, Tomorrow, and Beyond.”