Teen wins NAACP art contest A3
The Daily Augus (Gannett Westchester Newspapers) Sunday, July 29, 1990

Mount Vernon teen draws on his determination
Young artist wins NAACP contest

Staff photo/Mark Vergari

For the past two years, Benjamin George Jr.'s pencil drawings have won a gold medal and $1,000 in scholarship money in the NAACP ACT-SO contest. He has been accepted into Virginia Polytechnic State University..

When he was a small boy growing up on the tiny  island of Dominica, between the better-known French tourist islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe in the West Indies, Benjamin George Jr. could hardly imagine his artistic success.
     "I started drawing with pencil and paper when I was nine years old. It was just for fun. I didn't expect it to lead to anything," he said.
     Earlier this month he left his Mount Vernon home for Los Angeles to compete in the national ACT-SO, an academic scholarship program sponsored by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

College bound
     ACT-SO, an acronym for Afro-American Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics, has been held regularly since 1976 to encourage black youth to strive for excellence in academic and cultural pursuits.
     "I was very proud to be in the competition." said George, who is 21. "I think this competition does a great deal for black youth."
     George, one of eight children, lives with his parents and five siblings. The others are married. His father work as a chef. His mother is a homemaker.
     "I knew all about the competition," he said, as he sat at home in his 17 Rich Ave. apartment after returning from California. "I was in it last year at Detroit. I won the gold medal and $1,000 in college scholarship money then."
     After graduation from Mount Vernon High School in June and acceptance at Virginia Polytechnic State University, George worked on deciding what drawings to enter in this competition.
     "I specialize in portraits. I took my favorite piece, a drawing of a woman in a steam room, and flew out west," he said.
     The program, which includes competition in visual arts, performing arts, literary arts and applied, technical and social sciences, was held in a downtown Los Angeles hotel.
     "When I entered the room where all the drawings paintings and sculpture were exhibited, I walked around and viewed all the works being entered by the other youth. I saw what I was up against," he said.
     George said the excitement built all day long. He admitted he was extremely nervous, even with the experience of a previous win in Detroit.

Winner's jitters
     "We were all going crazy as each names was called for each category," he said. "I sat there with my hands sweating and my heart beating rapidly. The first name, the third-place winner, was called. Then the second-place winner, another youth from Brooklyn, was named."
     Then the winner in the drawing category was being announced. George remembered the moment.
     "I was frozen in my seat and couldn't move when my name was called," he said. "I finally jumped up and ran on stage to receive my gold medal and the $1,000 scholarship money."
     George expects to major in visual arts and illustration at college and minor in computer graphics. He enjoys working with computers and also sells computers at his part-time job at a Mount Vernon Radio Shack store.
     "I am not sure whether I will go into computer graphics or try to make a career in the art field," he said. "I'm happy I don't have to make that decision now."
     George said his one great regret about his final victory in the high school competition is that he cannot meet and compete against so many of the people he enjoyed meeting the last couple of years.
     "Actually this was my third try. I went as a sophomore and didn't receive a mention. It just made me more determined," he said.
     George, a modest young man, said he didn't think his achievement was that exceptional or beyond the capabilities of many of his schoolmates in the area.
     "I believe if you give something a try and believe in yourself, you can do it," he said. "Nothing is impossible if you really want it."
     The accomplishments of Benjamin George are not only significant for himself but even more so as a community lesson.
     This youngster came from the West Indies less than nine years ago. Now he is on threshold of wonderful academic and professional success. No goal is truly out of reach.

Maury Allen is a staff writer and columnist for Gannett Westchester Newspaper.