The Difference of Hometown Pride
At American Beach College Fund we are far from the only non-profit organization seeking to help send kids to college, but one of the things we are trying to do is help assure that students are prepared for college and are motivated to succeed. Research shows that hometown pride can play a major role in how much students are able to achieve. We hope to send many low-income and first generation students to Florida state colleges and stand by these students as a true source of moral support rather than simply handing over a check. This type of support can be just as important as financial support, and it is something that students from middle class or more affluent families might take for granted.
Community support foundations that are similar to American Beach Foundation have not only made better use of scholarships they have earned, but high school students in eligible communities overall have improved their grades, test scores, and have been able to achieve more in their college careers.
The American Beach Foundation is taking a special interest in this community because we believe in the history and heritage behind the community. It was started by an African American businessman, Abraham Lincoln Lewis, in 1935 during the height of Southern segregation. The community lies just north of Jacksonville, where most beaches were closed off to black people. American Beach became a recreational vacation spot for African Americans where they could relax and enjoy themselves with dignity. Lewis wanted to provide a high class place to work and play for his employees, their families, and any other black Americans who were ready to benefit. American Beach grew into a full-fledged community with hotels, restaurants, nightclubs, homes, and other businesses. It became a popular spot for several African American celebrities including Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, Hank Aaron, Joe Louis, and Sherman Hemsley.
Honoring a Community
The community continued to thrive until 1964 when many of the homes and buildings were destroyed by Hurricane Dora. In the same year, the Civil Rights Act opened up the once closed Jacksonville beaches and lessened the immediate demand for the specialized, historical community. In 1977, Lewis’ great granddaughter MaVynee Betsch brought a renewed fight to preserve and rebuild the area, which she continued until her death in 2005. From planting trees to offering tours and education about the area. Betsch raised awareness about the area and it’s importance in American history and one major accomplishment made was the inclusion of American Beach in the National Register of Historic Places in 2001.
American Beach College Fund is a pledge by a group of anonymous donors to pay up to 100 percent of tuition at any of Florida’s state colleges or universities for graduates of the public high schools of Nassau County, Florida. To receive the minimum 65% benefit, students must have lived within the Nassau County area and attended public high school there for four years, and graduated. To receive a full scholarship, students must have attended Nassau County public schools since kindergarten. Qualifying schools include those in the Nassau County School District, including Fernandina Beach High School, Yulee High School, and Southside Elementary School.
American Beach Foundation’s goal is to create a strong preservation committee that will help conserve and rebuild the beaches of American Beach as well as raise awareness and educate people on the history and culture of the American Beach community.