_I had a chance to review our clipping file on the ABC Foundation, when Nancy Otterness came in recently to find information for the group's 40th anniversary celebration in 2012. While the story of pioneer black families in Edina is heavily researched, this story from the modern era is lesser known.
In 1972, a group of residents decided to form a local chapter of the national A Better Chance (ABC) Foundation, which invites academically talented students of color to attend a school district where they can get a quality education and prepare for the challenges of college. ABC students, who transferred to Edina schools from all over the country, have gone on to attend top colleges and assume positions of leadership and responsibility in their community.
The concept was revolutionary in 1963, when the national ABC Foundation formed. Keep in mind that 1963 was the peak of the Civil Rights movement - this was the same year that Alabama Governor George Wallace won the office on the slogan of "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever." At the same time that Martin Luther King was jailed in Birmingham, thousands marched on Washington for Civil Rights legislation and NAACP field officer Medgar Evars was assassinated, the foundation found ways for students of color to attend top schools throughout the country.
The local program began with a strong base of community support nearly ten years later, and students of color enrolled rather quietly at Edina, Minnesota, schools. Not every resident wanted minorities living next door, however. Edina then, as now, was predominantly white. Establishing a group home for primarily black students on France Avenue generated some controversy. "I thought the worst that could happen would be a black family moving in," said one homeowner to the Minneapolis Tribune. "But that was far from the worst." Other residents said their opposition was not based on race, but rather the number of students in the house.
Despite the initial fears, the program went on to great success. According to the above clipping from the student newspaper in 1982, female students lived in the group home and male students were placed with host families. The program, funded exclusively by donations, paid for food, housing, and plane tickets home during Christmas and summer breaks.
A Better Chance, which will celebrate its 40th year in 2012, is planning a reunion of students, host families, board members, and the public at a Gala Celebration on May 4 at the Edina Country Club. The group is looking for any historically significant information to share about the program (newspaper clippings, photos, or experiences). For more information, contact Sherry Nuness, Executive Director of ABC, at 952-848-3101 or see the organization's web site here.
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