By Cherri Gregg

By Community Affairs Reporter Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Philadelphia NAACP’s Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) draws high school students from all over the region who compete in 26 categories for cash, bragging rights and a place in the national competition.

“They will compete in painting, drawing, sculpture, dance, vocal classic, vocal contemporary,” says ACT-SO Chair Kathleen Coleman-Smith.
Science, poetry, math, physics and film are just a few of the remaining categories. Smith says the purpose of the competition is to teach young people of African descent to raise their standards.

“It’s about bringing your full game when you come to compete,” she says. “This is an opportunity, our students have gone on to big and better things,” says Smith.

Central High School junior Afaq Mahmoud has seen what can happen first hand. Her sister won first place in a science category in 2012. She’s now a freshman on full scholarship at Yale.

“I was surrounded by young people who were so talented in one place,” says Mahmoud, who everyone calls “Foo-Foo.” “It gives you hope.”

Mahmoud won first place in both the regional’s and nationals for the last two years. Her talent is writing plays, something she says, until ACT-SO, was unfamiliar.

“All my life I assumed I would go into the sciences, but now I am looking at the arts,” says Mahmoud. “Ever since I wrote my plays, I realize this is something that I want to do.”

One of Mahmoud’s winning plays revolved around a 10-year-old boy named Walnut. She says the story was based on her own life in Darfur, Sudan.

“I’ve seen many wars and heard stories,” she says. “The children are always the first to get hurt and that’s why my main character was a 10-year-old boy and all of my other characters were adults. I wanted to show the children’s point of view,” says Mahmoud.

ACT-SO will take place at Audenreid High School on April 13th beginning at 1 p.m. It’s not too late to sign up for the free competition.

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