Taking the Gold

After three years in DuPage County ACT-SO, E’LaShae Scott, Sharad Crosby, and Najera Rogers have won gold.

The three Naperville teens are among 12 national qualifiers from the recent regional NAACP competition that all ACT-SO participants compete in.

ACT-SO is short for Afro-American, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics, a year-long enrichment program that culminates with a regional competition of student projects across 26 different career fields; ranging from science and humanities to business and the arts.

“When we meet monthly we do a couple of different things. We meet as a group and we work on those things like presenting in front of a group [and] dressing for success,” said Chairperson of DuPage County ACT-SO Dorletta Payton. “Then they go into individual group enrichment sessions. We have professionals helping them with what the ACT-SO competition is about and number two what they need to do to be ready for competition.”

Professionals and personal mentors work with students to help craft the best competition project in their field of interest.

In the original essay category, Crosby, a junior from Naperville North, won gold for his work that redefined the word fortune.

“I choose this word because I feel that people think of fortune as how much money you have, what kind of clothes you have, or how much money you have,” said Crosby. “I was saying that fortune is really isn’t this wealth, but it’s really defined by yourself.”

Rogers, in her last year at Naperville Central, won top honors in the poetry category, which she silver medaled in her first two years in the program.

“My poem is called, ‘Hidden Talent,’” said Rogers. “It’s about someone who walks around thinking life is okay. At the end they say they are unhappy and they’re tired of living this façade kind of life.”

Naperville North senior, Scott, knew after she won gold last year she had to go back.

She won top honors in drawing category for “When You Pray,” depicting a woman stepping into water.

All three students have earned a trip to Orlando, FL, in July, to compete nationally.

Scott has high expectations for her second trip to the national completion.

“I hope I can make new friends,” said Scott. “I hope I can get my work out there and to experience and see other people’s work. You get to look at what other people have done.”

The ACT-SO organization is strictly volunteer, so to raise funds they’re putting on a Gold Medal Showcase on April 27, at Benedictine University to feature students who participated in regionals.

“If you were not able to see the gold medal winning performances at the competition on March 16, you can do it there,” said Co-Chair of DuPage County ACT-SO, Cynthia Johnson. “You can come see the gold medalists perform and you can see the gold medalist displays for the sciences and visual arts.”

Payton hopes the dedication shown by the winners over their time at ACT-SO will inspire others to go for the gold.

“Even though they won gold medal, those three kids they’ve been in it more than one year,” said Payton. “Many of them participated and did not win a medal. They continue to work on their project and on their performance and every year they got better until they got to that gold medal.”

Famous previous ACT-SO participants include actress Jada Pinkett-Smith, rapper Kanye West, and director John Singleton.

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