Sunday, February 26, 2012

Horry students win prizes for historical essays

Congratulations to the students of Horry County who participated in the essay contest co-sponsored by the Historic Myrtle Beach Colored School Museum and Education Center in Myrtle Beach and Horry County Schools Adult Education. An awards program was held last week at the Center.

Students were to write a poem or short essay on the theme “One Person Can Make a Difference,” which was to honor unsung African-American heroes. Their subjects could be famous people from past or present, or someone from their everyday life.

All three winners in the elementary school division were from Pee Dee Elementary School: first place, Ivy Tucker; second place, Taina Diaz; third place, Ayeshia Bostic; and their teacher, Denise Armour.

For middle school, the winners were: first place, De’Ericka Jackson, Myrtle Beach Middle School, Cindy Garcia; second place, Isabel Galeono, Forestbrook Middle School, Stephanie Necessary; third place, Madison Belissary, Myrtle Beach Middle, Annette Nerone.

For high school, first place, Holly Edwards, Loris High School, Danny McPherson; second place, Alexis Halyard, Socastee High School, Bobby Chandler; third place, Madeline Cook, Conway High School, Kelly Wilson.

The first-place winners from each category read their essays at the event. They received book-store gift cards, as well as monetary awards donated by Jewel John in memory of her late husband, Walter John.

Second- and third-place winners received their essays commemorated on a plaque along with gift bags.

Didn't know anything about the Historic Myrtle Beach Colored School Museum and Education Center? It too has a fascinating story to share.

The original four-room, wood-framed Myrtle Beach Colored School opened in 1932 as a product of segregated times. Previously, African-American students were educated in local churches, since they could not attend the official “white” schools. Having a school to call their own was a great advancement and source of pride, and the Myrtle Beach Colored School fulfilled a vital role in the African-American community during that period of transition and growth.

The need for the Myrtle Beach Colored School was eliminated in 1953 with the opening of Carver Training School. No longer in use, the old schoolhouse served as a warehouse for a while, but eventually languished in the heart of the neighborhoods that it once served and fostered. Yet former students never forgot their class time there, even when the building itself, untended and unpainted for two decades, had become an eyesore. They wanted to preserve this tangible piece of Myrtle Beach’s past and, with crystal vision, could see beyond the building’s now-shabby outward appearance to its essential role and function as a cornerstone of the community.

As early as 1978, a group of former students tried to save the school, but the task of buying property and raising restoration funds was too great. In 2001, when the building’s days truly were numbered by an imminent road-widening project, the City of Myrtle Beach answered their call for help. City Council appointed former students, community representatives and other interested parties to a newly created committee charged with the task of saving the school. Council also provided $10,000 in “seed money” to help the committee with fund-raising.

Unfortunately, as everyone discovered when the old school was surveyed, the building itself could not be saved. Time and weather had taken their toll, and the wooden structure had deteriorated beyond salvage. Even if the committee could find the money to restore the original, it was in no condition to be moved from the site. With this option gone, the City of Myrtle Beach contributed $27,000 and the South Carolina Department of Transportation added $10,000 to deconstruct the building and store the pieces in a donated warehouse until funds for a new building could be raised.

With the site of the old school about to be halved by the new road, Burroughs & Chapin Company, Inc., offered to donate a site nearby, less than two blocks away, where a new “old” school could be rebuilt. This land donation, valued at $93,000, along with City Council’s pledge of up to $350,000 in construction money, gave the former students hope that their dream might be realized. Toward that end, the group renamed itself the Historic Myrtle Beach Colored School Museum and Education Center Committee, as proof of its intentions.

The former students were adamant about two things. First, they believed the school should retain its original name. To them, it had always been the Myrtle Beach Colored School, and they were unconcerned with whether that name might be uncomfortable or politically incorrect. Segregation was wrong, but it happened, and changing the name now was an unthinkable act of revisionist history. Second, they strongly believed that the school should continue to serve in an educational capacity. It wasn’t enough to create a museum to the past; the new building also should provide a service to the community.

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