Roberto Burgos had not heard his name yet, but he knew he won.
The 16-year-old from Golden Gate High School placed his hands on his face and squinted his eyes to hold back tears. The people seated around his banquet table had come to the same conclusion, and some of them quietly congratulated him.
It was his Oscars moment.
Burgos was among 14 young competitors who gathered Saturday at the Hilton Naples to hear the results of last weekend’s NAACP Collier County local ACT-SO competition. ACT-SO stands for “Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics,” an annual program designed to “recruit, stimulate and encourage” achievement among high school students, according to the NAACP.
High school students earned bronze, silver and gold medals in humanities, performing arts, science and visual arts. The 2016 local gold medal winners, including Burgos, who won medals for drama and singing, will go on to the national competition this July in Cincinnati. All travel expenses are paid through contributions made by sponsors who support NAACP Collier County’s youth outreach.
The winners were buoyant as they ate celebratory cake and congratulated each other.
Jasmine Cledanor, 15, earned a gold medal for her poem about “a deceptive woman who lets out her inner evils on other people.” The Lely High School student said she is inspired by Edgar Allan Poe.
“I want to explore all different types of writing,” said Cledanor, who also won a bronze medal for essay writing. “This opportunity is a platform to get my poetry exposed.”
Ivonne Muñoz, 15, had no formal singing training until she joined the Collier County ACT-SO competition her freshman year at Lely High School. Now a sophomore and on her way to the nationals competition, Muñoz said she is focused on her goals.
“What matters most to me is knowing that I did my best,” said Muñoz, who won a gold medal for oratory and a silver medal for singing.
The chance to perform before a national audience validates all the hard work, said Burgos, who said he plans to study music and theater at Florida Gulf Coast University before following his dreams elsewhere.
“I feel like my voice can touch others,” Burgos said.
Other gold medal winners were Kesline Senesca, for vocals; Jeffrey Saintil, for poetry performance; Stephanie Latortue, for engineering; and Jacksen Pierre, for drawing.
Other silver medal winners were Jeffrey Saintil, for poetry writing; Laurie Paul, for poetry performance; Fridson Janvier, for drawing; and Giovanni Principe, for photography.
Bronze medals also went to Jenia Alexis, for poetry writing; Kesline Senesca, for singing; Jhonnan Desinor, for poetry performance; and Tomas Coliqueo, for painting.