Sunday, April 6, 2008

Black Students in Des Moines Shine in ACT-SO Competition

By Dana Boone

With so much attention paid to academic achievement gaps, lagging test scores and graduation rates, one might think all African-American students in Des Moines were struggling. But that is far from accurate.

Nearly 50 of Des Moines' highest achieving, gifted and brilliant black students on Saturday participated in an academic competition at Corinthian Baptist Church. The competition is called ACT-SO. It stands for Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics and is part activities for youth by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Students, who came from high schools in Des Moines, Urbandale and West Des Moines, competed in five areas: the sciences, humanities, performing arts, visual arts and business. I had the honor of helping judge the students' essays, poetry and a play.

Students wrote and performed their own musical compositions. One sang in Italian. They penned moving poetry, a through-provoking play about burying the N-Word and even business plans. They performed science experiments and math projects.

A core group of dedicated volunteers led by the phenomenal Gretchen Woods spent months organizing the event. Others served as mentors and judges.

Some of the students will advance to the national competition held in July in Orlando Fla. Some will not. Only the best go on from here.

These students -- and this academic competition - help remind us all that there are high achieving black students in our midst -- despite the headlines we read nearly every day.

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