What do you think of when you hear American Heritage? Perhaps you think of the 4th of July, stars and stripes, and the Declaration of Independence. Our country was originally founded on Judeo-Christian beliefs. The values of our founding fathers are important to the heritage of our nation, but the biblical values that our God established for us are our foundation as His children.
Approximately 21 years ago, a local high school gave a scholarship that was not based on scholastic, musical or athletic achievements. It was also not in line with biblical principals. Our then senior pastor, Dr. Lester F. Ayars proposed that we as a church should award a scholarship to graduating high school seniors, one male and one female, whose lives exemplify the genuine moral character and the traditional values that our country was founded on. The American Heritage Scholarship was established and is funded by the Island Christian Church congregation.
While academic, musical and athletic accomplishments are important, so is one’s character. As the famous college basketball coach John Wooden said: “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! Psalm 119:9-10
The American Heritage Scholarship is not based on grades, merit, or ability, but on one’s character and relationship with God. The following values embody the core of the American heritage Scholarship: genuine, personal faith in God; patriotism; personal honesty and integrity; compassion and concern for others; and the traditional moral beliefs described in the Ten Commandments including honor for parents, the sanctity of life, chastity, and honesty and truthfulness in all dealings with others.
Our nation’s foundation wasn’t perfect, but God’s foundation is. Today American and Christian values are challenged on a daily basis. Many of our Christian youth struggle with their identity and embrace the world view. I’m sure our past winners would all agree they are not perfect. For many of them, it was their strong faith, honesty, transparency and their desire to have their imperfect character shaped by walking with our perfect God that earned them the distinction of being awarded the American Heritage Scholarship.
Here at ICC, we believe that one’s character truly does matter. As we congratulate this year’s graduates, it is not only our best advice but our sincere prayer that they will seek God continually, walk in a way that is worthy of the calling that He has placed on their lives, and whole-heartedly trust that He is their strength and their joy for all their days, no matter what lies ahead.
John DeMarco, AHS Committee Chairman