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Five Lee students ready for national ACT-SO competition

By Staff | Jul 7, 2011

Five students from Lee County will travel to Los Angeles later this month to compete in the national level of the African American Cultural Technological Scientific Olympics to showcase their talent in a variety of fields.
James Muwakkil, president of Lee County NAACP said the Olympics, which originally began in 1978, was created to give disadvantaged youths an opportunity to advance their genius and display it in front of thousands of people.
The ACT-SO includes 26 competitive categories, including sciences, humanities, business and performing and visual arts.
Muwakkil said the diverse group presents a wonderful story because they represent different races.
“It is not just for and about African Americans, it is about any youth who has talent,” he said. “Our youth is willing to cross the color line to be a part of something together, regardless of race. It is a wonderful example of what our future looks like.”
The students include Oasis High School Senior Tyler Omundsen, who will sing contemporary music at the national competition; Sage Meyers, a sophomore at Oasis High School, who will participate in dramatics; Quinton Thomas, a junior at Cypress Lake High School, who will sing classical music; Jasmine Tonge, a recent graduate of East Lee County High School, who will dance; and Fort Myers High School senior Keana Jordan, who will sing contemporary music.
“They are very talented,” Peter Ndiang’ui, chairperson of ACT-SO in Lee County, said. “I am so proud of them.”
Meyers, who will turn 16 this month, will perform “Dialogues of the Gods,” a monologue, at the national competition. She said it is a very dramatic Greek mythology speech.
“ACT-SO has been a good experience,” she said. “Especially with me going to L.A. … a great opportunity and if I win, wow!”
Meyers said she wanted a change of pace in getting her talent out there, since she has only showcased it while acting at school since seventh grade.
To prepare for the competition, Meyers said she will empty her mind and concentrate on what she is reading while remaining calm, along with speaking clearly and giving as much energy as she can to her performance.
For the past couple of years, the students have been practicing their talents and competing in local and statewide competitions.
Muwakkil said the students nailed their performances at the state conference, which was held in Orlando.
“They nailed it,” he said. “They got a standing ovation.”
Ndiang’ui said he has been their mentor and has worked with the students for the past two years as they meet every other weekend.
“I enjoy doing this,” he said. “It feels so nice to help kids. We are helping kids grow.”
Darlene Mitchell, vocal coach for ACT-SO and president of Darlene and Friends, Inc., said it has been an honor to be the students’ coach for the last two years.
“I am a professional singer … from time to time I bring students along to programs I am a part of to inspire them,” she said.
Mitchell said it is about singing and education. She said without education, they will not know how to react to downfalls or shortcomings if they occur.
“They may get a dip in the road, but there are plenty of strings that will pull them up,” Mitchell said.
Muwakkil said the national competition will be good for the students because some come from families that, perhaps, do not have the resources they need to get them to a place where they may be recognized.
“The families on their own can’t do it,” he said about the exposure the students will receive while at the competition. Members of the audience will include producers, film makers, writers and many other professionals.
Muwakkil said the students can win monetary awards and scholarships from the national competition to help them go to college, a university or training institution of their choice.
“We have this beautiful group of youths and we are going to send them to Los Angeles from July 21 through July 25,” Muwakkil said. “We are trying to give them an opportunity to show their skills and be on their way to making their talent a career.”
To send the five students and three adults to California, Muwakkil said they need about $10,300 for air travel, hotel rooms, food and transportation.
He said they currently have $6,100 to put towards the cost of the trip, but are short about $4,200.
Those who wish to make a cash donation for the trip can do so by sending money to Lee County NAACP ACT-SO, P.O. Box 1858, Fort Myers, FL 33902.
“We are committed,” Muwakkil said about sending the students to the national competition. “We are very excited.”