Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

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March 21, 2013

A Better Chance Andover, Part II: Town rallies support

This is the second of two parts

Each summer during its early years, new A Better Chance students prepared for the cultural changes that lie ahead during a two-month program at Dartmouth in Hanover, N.H. before moving on to private secondary schools. It was logical to select Hanover High for ABC’s public school trial. Tom Mikula, a math instructor at Phillips Academy in Andover was selected to lead the Hanover program.

Due to the mixed racial population at Dartmouth, Hanover was adjusted to the presence of minority students. Housing them in town did not become an issue. With the Mikula family as house parents and Dartmouth students as tutors, the Hanover pilot program met expectations by June 1966. Then the Rockefeller Foundation announced a $60,000 grant to a town that would sponsor and initiate an ABC program in its public high school. The grant would help cover the cost of providing a dormitory.

Mikula was given responsibility to enlist a community that would host the second public school ABC program. He called his minister in Andover, Bruce Van Blair, to convene a meeting where the ABC program could be introduced to the town. An invitation went out to all Andover congregations via the ministers and the rabbi to attend a meeting at West Parish Church for the creation of an Andover ABC organization.

Andover Startup — Overcoming Unspoken Prejudice

AFS organizer Bob Klie had kept in touch with efforts to educate and act on equal opportunity for minorities through members of ACEO, Bruce Van Blair and others. Klie was there at West Parish to introduce Mikula on the October night when he came to explain ABC and the Rockefeller grant to the The Fishermen and interested members from Christ, Free Christian and South churches, and Temple Israel.

Klie was elected chair. He wasted no time in organizing the initial seven member board of directors. Bill Washburn, Leonard Kent and Klie recruited an Advisory Committee of 50 prominent Andover citizens. These citizens were key to developing a broad base for financial support and for community understanding of the value of ABC to Andover students and the town as a whole. The board was expanded to include sub-committees for student selection and host family relations. Students would stay with their host family every weekend.

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