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Students Awarded Scholarships to Culinary Institute of America at 41st Annual NAACP ACT-SO Competition Sponsored by Sodexo

July 30, 2019


Sodexo Partnership with NAACP ACT-SO and Culinary Institute of America Provides High School Students Opportunity to Further Interest in Culinary Arts Education

GAITHERSBURG, MD, July 30, 2019 - Sodexo and NAACP ACT-SO (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People - Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics), a major youth initiative of the NAACP that is a year-long achievement program, awarded top culinary competition students scholarships to attend the Culinary Institute of America. Gold medal winners from local competitions tested their skills against peers during the 41st Annual National NAACP ACT-SO competition and awards ceremony held in Detroit, Michigan July 18 - July 21.

ACT-SO was designed to identify, encourage, reward and showcase the academic and artistic achievements of high school students of African descent. ACT-SO provides students with an opportunity to work with professionals in their area of interest.

Students receive mentoring and coaching from Sodexo chefs to create and develop individual projects for local competitions. Sodexo and ACT-SO have had a long-standing partnership since 2009 when the idea to develop the Culinary Arts Competition Category was initiated. It nourishes the culinary talent among high school students, from inner-city schools nationwide. In 2015 Sodexo was approached by ACT-SO to support them in adding a Hospitality category. These students build a team of three or four and develop a business plan on a new concept related to Hospitality.

ACT-SO has impacted thousands of students nationwide. “Each year we look forward to working with the many talented high school students interested in the culinary arts and hospitality fields. With the support of our leadership and mentoring efforts of Sodexo chefs we strive to create opportunities for students to challenge themselves to express the best of their talent” said Sodexo VP of Global Diversity and Inclusion Lourdes Diaz. “In partnership with CIA and NAACP ACT-SO, we are able to nurture an ongoing relationship among the students and inform them about all of the career opportunities they can enjoy within our company- nationally and internationally.”

Approximately 200 programs are sustained by ACT-SO nationally, providing a platform for professional and educational enrichment that has proven to be an impactful model for creating a pipeline to successful careers.

Sodexo partners with the Culinary Institute of America to provide scholarships to winning students. To date, more than $300,000 in scholarships and educational credit have been awarded to culinary and hospitality students.

2019 NAACP ACT-SO Competition Winners



  • Kelise Tyler - Olathe East High School
  • NAACP Kansas City Chapter


  • Tionne Marks
  • Victoria Matson
  • Kamille Johnson
  • Talor Brisco - Westside High School
  • Project name: Mad Batter - NAACP Houston Chapter



  • Leslie Montenegro - Bladensburg High School
  • NAACP Prince George’s County Chapter


  • Zion Hawkins - St. Michaels Archangel High School
  • Neymara Freeman - Summer Academy of Arts & Science
  • Taylor Drummer - Lincoln College Preparatory School
  • Trevell Walker - Blue Springs South High School
  • Project name: Paws and Claws - NAACP Kansas City Chapter



  • Mylesha McCardell - Northside High School
  • NAACP Houston Chapter


Contact: Dasha Ross-Smith, Sodexo, Inc. 301-987-4893, Dasha.ross-smith@sodexo.com


The "Mad Batter" Team

The “Mad Batter” team from the NAACP Houston Chapter won a Gold medal in the 41st Annual NAACP ACT-SO Hospitality competition sponsored by Sodexo. Students and mentoring chefs are pictured. L to R - Talor Brisco, Kamille Johnson, Chef Derek Breitbach, Executive Sous Chef Detroit Marriott, Chef Shacfrica "Shac" Herring-Simmons, Victoria Matson, Tionne Marks and Chef Wangombe "Dobie" Keeling, Executive Chef Detroit Marriott




Culinary Gold Metal Winner

Culinary Gold medal winner Kelise Tyler pictured with NAACP Board Member Steve Ricard (left) and Chef Sterling Smith, Senior Manager Culinary Training and Activations, at the 41st Annual NAACP ACT-SO Competition. Tyler will receive a scholarship to the Culinary Institute of America to further her interest in Culinary Arts.

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