Oranges and Maplewood NAACP celebrates teen poet

Photo Courtesy of William M. Brown III

TRENTON, NJ — On May 26, Makayla C. Rivera, a 10th-grade student at West Orange High School and a student-member of the NAACP Oranges and Maplewood Branch’s ACT-SO Program, received the 2022 Governor’s Award in the Arts Education in the written poetry category. The awards ceremony was held in Trenton and Rivera was nominated by the NAACP branch. It was a very festive, celebratory event where several high school students and teachers from across the state of New Jersey performed and received awards for the various categories of the arts. This award program began in 1980 to promote awareness and appreciation of the arts, recognizing creativity, talent and leadership.

Rivera has participated in the branch’s ACT-SO Program — African-American, Cultural, Technological, Scientific Olympics — since 2021, when she won a silver medal in the Poetry Written State Competition. This year, Rivera won the gold medal in the competition and will advance to the national competition, which will be held in Atlantic City from July 14-17.

ACT-SO Chairperson William M. Brown III observed the emergence of Rivera as a gifted and talented poet and said, “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.”

According to the NAACP, Rivera 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 and poetry slam events, and with other community organizations. She also became a member of the NAACP branch and is a member of the Youth and Young Adults Committee.

ACT-SO is a year-long enrichment program with 35 subcategories under the STEM, humanities, visual and performing arts, culinary arts/hospitality management, business, and sustainable building design categories. There are eight active ACT-SO programs in the state of New Jersey and more than 125 ACT-SO programs nationwide. Students compete in local, state and national competitions annually for scholarships, cash awards and special prizes. During the year, there are also several additional opportunities for student engagement as a result of the donations of various organizations and corporate sponsorships. 

“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,” Brown said.

For more information about or to participate in the ACT-SO Program, contact Brown at