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March 28, 2018 11:58 PM | Anonymous

Twenty-One Gold Medalists Advance to National Competition

(Naperville, IL) – Fifty-one students from 13 area high schools competed for top honors in various categories in the fields of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), Business, Humanities, Performing Arts and Visual Arts at the 2018 Annual DuPage County ACT-SO competition, which was held at the College of DuPage on Saturday, March 17th. ACT-SO – the Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics – is a year-long program that was created to encourage high academic and cultural achievement among high school students of African descent. The program features three components: mentoring, academic enrichment, and a local competition.

More than 400 attendees, including parents, ACT-SO alumni, volunteers, partners and local elected officials celebrated the hard work of the 2017-2018 DuPage County ACT-SO students at the Awards Banquet, which was held the next day at Bolingbrook Golf Club. During the banquet, seventeen high school and five middle school students from the Jr. ACT-SO program were announced as gold medal winners, along with numerous silver and bronze medalists.

According to Chairperson Dorletta Flucas Payton, this year’s total of twenty-one gold medals marks a new record for the program. “DuPage County ACT-SO has emerged as the top-performing STEM program as a result of the partnership with Argonne National Laboratory. Our students’ abilities are stretched as they perform STEM research at a high level of rigor with the guidance of their Argonne mentor.” said Flucas Payton. “In addition to STEM, our students in the Humanities and other areas also continue to shine, making DuPage County ACT-SO a major competitor at every national competition. I can’t wait to see what our students do in San Antonio!”

Argonne National Laboratory was cited as a critical part of the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) students’ success. This is the fourth year that Argonne and DuPage County ACT-SO have partnered for the Argonne/ACT-SO STEM Mentoring and Research Program. Each ACT-SO high school STEM student is paired with a scientist from Argonne National Laboratory in Darien, who provides mentoring and guidance for the student’s STEM research. The research takes place on site at Argonne. In addition to one-on-one mentoring, the program brings in professionals every month to expose the students to careers in various STEM areas.

The gold medal high school winners bound for the ACT-SO National Competition in San Antonio, Texas in July, are:

Category Medal Name School Grade Area
Architecture Gold Jasmine  Walker Neuqua Valley 12th STEM
Biology Gold Ethan Covington Neuqua Valley 9th STEM
Biology Silver Zainab Salako Islamic Foundation School 10th STEM
Biology Bronze Imani Porter Neuqua Valley 11th STEM
Biology HM Jaylen Timms Glenbard West 11th STEM
Chemistry Gold Bryson Rivers Bolingbrook 11th STEM
Chemistry Silver Jordan Sharber Bolingbrook 11th STEM
Chemistry Bronze Ahmarea Covington Oswego East 10th STEM
Chemistry HM John Bonds III Providence St. Mel 12th STEM
Computer Science Gold Nneka Onwuta St. Charles East 12th STEM
Computer Science Silver Justin Austin Providence St. Mel 12th STEM
Computer Science Bronze James Morrissette Bolingbrook 9th STEM
Dramatics Gold Jordan Sharber Bolingbrook 11th Performing Arts
Dramatics Bronze Avia Wideman Bolingbrook 11th Performing Arts
Drawing Gold Erica Neal Bolingbrook 11th Visual Arts
Drawing Silver Amirah Yessoufou Neuqua Valley 12th Visual Arts
Drawing Bronze Alexis  Johnson Bolingbrook 12th Visual Arts
Earth and Space Sciences Bronze Kyla Wesley Metea Valley 12th STEM
Engineering Gold Justin Austin Providence St. Mel 12th STEM
Engineering Silver Joshua Lambert Glenbard East 12th STEM
Engineering Bronze Jasmine  Walker Neuqua Valley 12th STEM
Entrepreneurship Gold Imani Porter Neuqua Valley 11th Business
Filmmaking HM Veo Taylor Bolingbrook 12th Visual Arts
Instrumental Classical Gold Myles Henderson Downers Grove South 12th Performing Arts
Instrumental Contemporary Silver Myles Henderson Downers Grove South 12th Performing Arts
Instrumental Contemporary Bronze Amber Johnson Bolingbrook 12th Performing Arts
Mathematics Gold Erik Imathiu-Jones Providence St. Mel 11th STEM
Medicine HM Dominique Browder Plainfield East 9th STEM
Medicine and Health Gold Allyson Amegashie Neuqua Valley 11th STEM
Medicine and Health Silver Cameron Sharber Bolingbrook 9th STEM
Medicine and Health Bronze Micaela Wesley Metea Valley 12th STEM
Music Composition Gold Myles Henderson Downers Grove South 12th Humanities
Oratory Gold Alexis  Johnson Bolingbrook 12th Performing Arts
Oratory Silver Justin Bolden Bolingbrook 11th Performing Arts
Oratory HM Jade Harlan Bolingbrook 10th Performing Arts
Original Essay Gold Mariel Thompson Naperville North 12th Humanities
Original Essay Bronze Whitney Ford Plainfield East 12th Humanities
Painting Bronze Nicholas Brown Chicago High School for The Arts 11th Visual Arts
Photography Gold Adam Collins Plainfield East 11th Visual Arts
Photography Silver Noah Jones Downers Grove South 9th Visual Arts
Photography Bronze Daiyah Reeves Bolingbrook 9th Visual Arts
Physics Gold Erik Imathiu-Jones Providence St. Mel 11th STEM
Physics HM Andrew McElroy Bolingbrook 9th STEM
Poetry - Written Gold Avia Wideman Bolingbrook 11th Humanities
Poetry - Written Silver Jamia Chrusfield Glenbard East 12th Humanities
Poetry Performance Gold Avia Wideman Bolingbrook 11th Performing Arts
Sculpture Gold Alexis  Johnson Bolingbrook 12th Visual Arts
Short Story Gold Zainab Salako Islamic Foundation School 10th Humanities
Vocal Contemporary Gold Riziki Covington Neuqua Valley 12th Performing Arts

The Seventeen DuPage County ACT-SO High School Gold Medalists that were awarded twenty-one gold medals. Photographer - Michael Henderson, Sr

The Jr. ACT-SO Middle School Team Competition was held on March 3, 2018 at Glenbard South High School. The junior gold medal team, dubbed “Solution Squad”, was coached by Faiza Coleman-Salako and Theresa Purchase. Their Technical Mentors was George Shores. The team was comprised of the following five students:

  • LaTyla Goodwin – Kamarek MS – 7th Grade
  • Miles Gray – Troy Middle School – 8th Grade
  • Kabreah Gunter – Aux Sable Middle School – 8th Grade
  • Dawud Salako – Islamic Foundation School – 5th Grade
  • Auri Watson – Jane Addams Middle School – 7th Grade 

The Solution Squad Jr. ACT-SO Gold Medal Team with their coaches and technical mentor at the Awards Banquet. Photographer - Michael Henderson 

DuPage County ACT-SO is a program of the DuPage County Branch of the NAACP. Since its 1979 inception, the program has partnered with the College of DuPage (COD). COD and other key sponsors and partners including Argonne National Laboratory; Glenbard District 87/Glenbard South High School; The Village of Bolingbrook and its mayor, Roger C. Claar; Jack and Jill of America West Suburban Chicago Chapter; Dr. Benny and Mrs. Kim White; Comcast; and the West Towns(IL) chapter of The Links, Inc.; were all recognized at the banquet for their support of the program. 

The next step for the high school gold medalists is to prepare for the National ACT-SO Competition, which will take place in San Antonio, Texas in July, 2018. There, the DuPage County gold medalists will compete against approximately 600 other gold medalists from around the nation. The not-for-profit organization is now shifting to focus to raise the rest of the funds needed to send the gold medalists to the National ACT-SO Competition (about $1,000 per student). Donations can be made on their website:

The complete list of 2018 Local Competition winners for the High School ACT-SO and Jr. ACT-SO programs will be available at or by contacting Dorletta Payton, Chairperson at

About the DuPage County ACT-SO Program

The Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) is a major youth initiative of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Founded in 1978, by the renowned author and journalist, Vernon Jarrett, ACT-SO provides a forum through which African American youth demonstrate academic, artistic, and scientific prowess and expertise, thereby gaining the same recognition often reserved for entertainers and athletes.

ACT-SO "The Olympics of the Mind" is rooted in the firm conviction that African-Americans can succeed and compete at the same or superior levels as their counterparts in classrooms, boardrooms and laboratories across this nation and aboard. The objective of ACT-SO is to prepare, recognize and reward African-American youth who exemplify scholastic and artistic excellence. The ACT-SO goals are:

  • To mobilize the adult community for the promotion of academics and artistic excellence among African American students.
  • To recognize academic achievement among African American students in a manner commensurate with the recognition afforded athletics.
  • To provide and assist African-American students with the necessary skills and tools to establish goals and acquire the confidence and training to make a successful contribution to society.

NAACP branches and youth units throughout the country conduct annual competitions for students in grades 9 - 12 in the categories of Entrepreneurship, STEM, Humanities, Performing and Visual Arts. The top winners from the local competitions then compete against the winners from other cities at the national ACT-SO finals held during the NAACP's Annual Convention in July.

DuPage County ACT-SO’s middle school Jr. ACT-SO program provides a platform for 6th – 8th grade students to improve their analytical, problem-solving, and STEM-related competencies while building their social, presentation and teamwork skills. The program also brings a greater understanding of social and business issues on a local and global level. The students from learn about researching, technical writing, programming web pages, team building and public speaking.

The national ACT-SO high school program has helped nearly 300,000 young people open new doors to learning and define career paths since it was founded 40 years ago. Today there are more than 150 ACT-SO chapters around the country helping youth discover and develop their academic and artistic talents.


Sponsored by DuPage County Branch-NAACP and Lewis University 

DuPage County ACT-SO
P.O. Box 1546

Bolingbrook, IL 60440

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