These 'Olympics' focus on academics, culture

May 13, 1994|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Sun Staff Writer

Andrew Grams, a classical violinist at the Baltimore School for the Arts, will play at the "Olympics" in Columbia tomorrow -- and his performance will be one of the main events.

The Severn resident and 19 black students from Howard County will compete in the county NAACP's Eighth Annual Afro-academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Guilford Elementary School.

Known as the "Olympics of the Mind," the event was begun by the NAACP nationally in 1978 to promote, encourage, recognize and reward academic and cultural achievement among black students.

Students in grades nine through 12 will compete in tomorrow's ** 24-category event, which includes competitions in the humanities, sciences, and visual and performing arts.

The event gives students a showcase for academic and artistic talents that organizers said sometimes are overlooked in the public's emphasis on sports figures.

"There are lots of opportunities, whether they win or not," said Annie Foster, Howard County's ACT-SO chairwoman and a member of the Howard County NAACP chapter's board of directors.

Each local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People sponsors its own local ACT-SO competition, awarding medals and certificates. The gold medal winners advance to the national competition.

This year, the ACT-SO competition will be held July 9-10 in Chicago, a few days before the NAACP's national convention, Mrs. Foster said. On the national level, the gold medal winner gets a $1,000 cash scholarship, the silver winner gets $750, and the bronze winner gets $500, she said.

Mrs. Foster said the competition sometimes lets students recognize talents they didn't know they had.

Two years ago, for example, former Centennial High School student Jason Knight became the first county student to win on the national level, taking a gold medal in vocals/contemporary music, she said.

"Jason didn't know he could sing till he started" the competition, Mrs. Foster said. "Now, he's at the University of Delaware majoring in music."

Tomorrow, Andrew will compete in the instrumental classical music category. He is taking part in the Howard County competition because the Columbia event was convenient to his Severn home, Mrs. Foster said.

Andrew has taken private lessons since he was 10, said his mother, Betty Grams. He is a junior at the School for the Arts and a National Symphony Orchestra Youth Fellow at the Kennedy Center in Washington.

"I'm happy he's part of the competition," Mrs. Grams said. "In the performance world, you have to enter competitions in order to know what you can do. It gives you a chance to measure yourself by other talented people."

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