The NAACP recently celebrated its 109th annual convention in San Antonio, but it also honored youth for their endeavors in science, technology, music and other subjects.
About 17 Prince George’s County high school students joined hundreds of other nationwide in the 40th year of the civil rights organization’s Academic, Cultural, Technical and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO).
Eight of the students received medals with cash prizes between $1,000 to $2,000. They also received an iPad 6 tablet.
Langston Hughes II, 17, won a gold medal against 29 other students in the “musical instrumental-contemporary” category for his saxophone performance. The rising senior, who attends Charles H. Flowers High School in Springdale, has played the instrument for about eight years.
“I was pretty nervous the entire time,” Langston told The Informer of last month’s ACT-SO competition, which was his first. “It was pretty intimidating to know you are going against kids who won gold previously and won gold in their home competitions. Then I was just chilling after the experience.”
Another student, Gabriella Barnes, won a gold medal for literature and a bronze medal in hospitality management competitions.
Dora Myles-Moore, who chairs the county’s ACT-SO program, said it’s the county’s sixth year in the competition after a 20-year hiatus. In those six years, students garnered 34 medals.
“In order to have an ACT-SO, you have to have someone who really wants to run the ACT-SO program. It’s like a full-time job,” said Myles-Moore, who managed an ACT-SO program in New York. “In the musical instrumental contemporary and drama [categories], we never had anyone participate in the nationals. They go against students who research and may go to [college] for the arts. This was a big deal.”
Students prepare for the ACT-SO competition in August among seven areas: science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), humanities, performing arts, dramatics, visual arts, business and culinary arts.
For the next six months, students conduct activities such as architecture, written poetry and modern dance.
Local competitions are usually held in March or April and those winners prepare the next several months for the national ACT-SO event.
About 1,000 high school students attended this year’s NAACP convention, which featured a hip-hop summit, the 100th anniversary celebration of the city’s NAACP chapter, and remarks from former President Bill Clinton. The theme of this year’s gathering was “Defeat Hate — Vote.”
As for the Prince George’s students and their achievement, Langston called his mother for his Social Security number to fill out paperwork to mail his prize money.
“I just yelled, ‘Aw, congratulations buddy!” said his mother, Candra Hughes. “He said he wants to open up a mutual fund with his money. I just said, ‘OK.’ What child wants to use money for that? Incredible. It’s just by the grace of God.”