ACT-SO is an attempt to thwart the vicious cycle of low expectation and low scholastic achievement that is plaguing communities throughout the nation. The New York City ACT-SO is one of the most ambitious after schools programs in the country. It offers a year long, after academic enrichment program that includes weekly coaching workshops along with very successful After-School programs established in several New York City High Schools. The Program annually involves over 450 youth of African-American descent from public, private and parochial schools throughout metropolitan New York City.
The Saturday Enrichment Workshops are the core of the program, offering time each week for a student to make an investment in his/her own academic or artistic success. With the help of their coach/mentor, who is an accomplished professional, students choose an individual project. The coach serves as a role model, critic and mentor for his or her students as they develop their projects. This relationship becomes one of the most important rewards for the time and energy a student puts into the program. The primary workshop site is located at the Boys and Girls Club of Harlem on the Upper West side of Manhattan.
As participants prepare in up to three of 28 categories after school during the school year, they are also exposed to a variety of life skill topics. Many New York area high school students of underserved minority communities are at-risk of dropping out or failing to graduate from high school, and confront a future of negative behaviors and practices without the tools, skills and education necessary to become productive members of society. NYC ACT-SO scholars, by contrast, participate in culturally sensitive, rigorous training in critical thinking, academic research and presentation skills.
New York City ACT-SO has made a difference by providing a positive environment for African-American youth. The impact is evident among the former participants in the form of their achievements, enthusiasm, increased confidence and vision for success. A review of past New York City ACT-SO activities indicates that approximately 100 percent of all participants completed high school, and approximately 90 percent of all local medalists entered college while the others pursued vocational careers. This is in contrast to the New York City Department of Education statistics which reports a high school graduation rate of under 50 percent for African-American youth.