NewsOne Featured Video

UPDATED on September 9,2014 –

Over the years, helping African-American youths achieve academic excellence has been challenging. For example, while the National Center for Education Statistics reported this year that graduation rates have increased nationally, only 69 percent of Black students graduate high school. This past July 19-23, the NAACP hosted its 105th annual convention in Las Vegas. The event, which draws about 10,000 people each year, discusses ways of empowering Black communities across the country and holds its Academic, Cultural, Technological, & Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) awards for the youth.

ACT-SO is a yearlong achievement program focused on helping African-American high school students reach academic excellence and personal development through mentorship with support from local businesses, organizations, and leaders.

Each year, students apply to join and develop a proposed project classified under one of 26 categories in the sciences, business, and culture. During the school year, local workshops are held in each state, where these youth get the opportunity to develop their project under the guidance of a working professional in that expertise.

The best projects from the local workshops are then selected to compete with students from other participating states. At the “Olympics of the Mind,” students present their projects to NAACP convention attendees and are awarded for their efforts.

ACT-SO was founded by author and journalist Vernon Jarrett in order to 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.

A list of the 2014 ACT-SO Medalists is here, on NAACPConnect.

SEE ALSO: 22 Illustrious HBCU Alums [PHOTOS]