Two local high school students won gold medals and scholarships in the NAACP ACTSO competition, and will now represent Richmond in a national competition set to be held virtually this month due to COVID-19.
Charles Woodfork, 17, a junior at Salesian High School, and Joi Gonzalez, 16, a junior at Pinole Valley High School, were victorious in the competition held for the first time by the Richmond-Bay Area NAACP Youth Council.
ACTSO, an acronym for African American Cultural Technical and Science Olympics, is an academic competition that has been sponsored by the national NAACP for the past 40 years.
African American high school students from throughout the U.S. compete annually in up to three of 32 areas of competition, including Science, Humanities, Performing Arts, Entrepreneurship, Visual Arts and Culinary Arts.
Woodfork competed both in the “Original Essay” and the “Medical and Health” competitions. His original essay deals with the disparity in the application of “justice” in the majority and diverse communities and his science project addresses the issue of over-medicating children, particularly children of color, and the frequent misdiagnoses of Attention Deficit Disorder.
Gonzalez competed in the “Earth and Space” category. Her research paper demonstrates in meticulous detail the disparity in the water quality used in five distinctly diverse communities in the Bay Area.
The 2020 ACTSO Richmond competition is chaired by attorney Audrey D. Shields and co-chaired by Tajii M. Thomas, a recent Howard University graduate and current secretary of the Richmond Youth Council. ACT-SO committee chairs are Scottie Smith, judge and mentor coordinator; Cheryl Maier, Finance; Zelon Harrison, Student Recruitment; and Y’Anad Burrell, Publicity and Social Media.
Scholarships were made possible with generous contributions from the Ermestine Martin Charitable Foundation and the Carl Adams Family Foundation.
This year’s ACTSO coaches were Audrey Comeaux, Science; Michael Gonzalez, Humanities; Wesley Alexander, Entrepreneurship; and Choncey Nunn, Performing Arts.
Volunteer judges included Doris Lewis, Sonya Neely-Johnson, Noah Johnson, Annette Henry-Evans, Stephanie Phillips, Elizabeth Block, Marsha Williams, Dr. Cardenas Shackelford, LaShante Smith and William McGee.
Contra Costa Board of Education member Dr. Fatima S. Alleyne, who charted her own journey as an African American student overcoming obstacles and earning her PhD with degrees in chemistry and engineering, was among the speakers at the event.
The Richmond–Bay Area Youth Council is a newly activated branch of the National NAACP consisting of young people ages 14 to 24. It works to raise the consciousness of the community about civil and human rights and justice. Younger students who exhibit an interest in civil rights issues can join. For more information see @RichmondNAACPYouth on Instagram or call the Youth Council secretary Tajii Thomas at (510) 776-0091 or the Adult YC Advisor Zelon Harrison at (916) 236-8181.
Parents are strongly encouraged to be involved For information or questions about ACT-SO please contact Audrey Shields at 510-313-8888.