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West Orange High School Sophomore Wins Governor’s Award in Poetry Arts Education

West Orange

On May 26, 2022, Makayla C. Rivera, a 10th-grade student at West Orange High School in West Orange, New Jersey and a student/member of the N.A.A.C.P. Oranges and Maplewood Branch's ACT-SO Program, received the 2022 Governor's Award in the Arts Education Poetry Written Category.

The awards ceremony was held at the Patriots Theater at the War Memorial in Trenton, New Jersey.

 It was a festive celebratory event where several high school students and teachers from across the State of New Jersey performed and received awards for various arts categories. This award program began in 1980 to promote awareness and appreciation of the arts, recognizing creativity, talent and leadership.

Makayla has participated in the ACT-SO Program of the Oranges and Maplewood Branch (African-American, Cultural, Technological, Scientific Olympics) since 2021, where she won a Silver medal in the Poetry Written State Competition. 

This year, Makayla won the Gold medal in Poetry Written in the State Competition. She will advance to the National Competition, held in Atlantic City, New Jersey, from July 14-17, 2022.

William M. Brown III, F.A.I.A., the Oranges and Maplewood ACT-SO Chair, observed the emergence of Makayla. 

As a gifted and talented poet, she stated that "Makayla stirs up her gifts by being a compassionate, insightful young activist who brings awareness and a call to action through her poetry, which is inspirational to people in our communities."

Makayla sets an example for other young people by sharing her poems at special events of the Oranges and Maplewood Branch, such as the Freedom Fund Gala, Speaker Series, Poetry Slam events, and other community organizations. 

She also became a member of the N.A.A.C.P. Branch and is a member of the Youth and Young Adults Committee.

ACT-SO is a year-long enrichment program with thirty-five (35) sub-categories under the S.T.E.M., Humanities, Visual and Performing Arts, Culinary Arts/Hospitality Management, Business,and Sustainable Building Design categories. 

There are eight (8) active ACT-SO programs in the State of New Jersey and over (125) ACT-SO programs nationwide. Students compete in local/State and National Competitions annually for scholarships, cash awards and special prizes. 

There are also several additional opportunities for student engagement during the year due to the generous donations of various organizations and corporate sponsorships. 

Mr. Brown also stated, "The ACT-SO Program gives students a great opportunity to build confidence and self-esteem, hone their gifts and talents, pursue their dreams, network with and receive support from mentors, and build relationships with other students in New Jersey and from across the country."


If any student, parent, or legal guardian is interested in participating in the N.A.A.C.P. Orange and Maplewood ACT-SO program or needs additional information, don't hesitate to contact the ACT-SO Chair, William M. Brown III, F.A.I.A., at

P.O. Box 1127, East Orange, NJ 07019  (973) 675-5325