Plainfield East High School senior Whitney Ford won her first gold medal in her third appearance at the national Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO) in July in Baltimore, Maryland.
Ford won the top honor for her biometrics computer science project using a computer algorithm to identify gender from a subject’s eye iris. Her previous research used facial and fingerprint recognition.
Ford won silver medals in the national competitions in 2016 and 2015.
Ford said she felt surprise and relief after winning the gold medal that all of her hard work at school and over the summer paid off.
PEHS Principal Dr. Joe O’Brien praised Ford’s hard work, positive attitude and daily commitment to excellence.
“We are so very proud of Whitney and all her accomplishments,” he said. “She is a genuine leader and will be successful throughout her life.”
Ford won her third gold medal in March at the DuPage County ACT-SO local competition to advance to the national event.
Fourteen DuPage County ACT-SO students including Ford competed at the national level. More than 700 local ACT-SO gold medal winners from across the country competed in events related to STEM, business, humanities, performing arts and visual arts.
Along with the hardware and scholarship money, Ford said, the local and national competitions have helped make her a better public speaker.
“I gained so much confidence to be able to speak in front of people,” she said.
Ford plans to enter the ACT-SO local competition for her final time next spring. Planning for next year’s contest begins in the next two weeks.
She plans to attend college and major in biology with a minor in criminal justice and dreams of working as a forensic anthropologist at the FBI.
ACT-SO is a yearlong achievement program designed to recruit, stimulate and encourage high academic and cultural achievement among African-American high school students. The program focuses on mentoring, academic achievement and a local competition.
ACT-SO is a youth initiative of the National Association for the Development of Colored People (NAACP). There are more than 200 local ACT-SO chapters nationwide. More than 260,000 young people have participated in the program since its inception.
The College of DuPage and the DuPage Regional Office of Education sponsor the DuPage County ACT-SO.