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Falcon Academy puts "affordable" back in college education


When the Class of 1965 were at Hickman County High School, the only “Go Falcons!” they heard was from cheerleaders at basketball games. Times have changed and Hickman County High School is a new school with a new attitude.
 
“Go Falcons!” has become “Go to College, Falcons!”
 
That’s the message that Hickman County School Superintendent Kenny Wilson wants the Class of 2011 to hear loud and clear.  He and the staff at this small rural high school set out this year to make the dream of college a reality for every one of the 58 juniors and the classes that will follow them. College classes and dual credit classes are no longer the property of only large urban school districts. With a consortium of adults committed to providing opportunities for higher education, students will get a head start on their college careers.
 
Tuesday evening, parents came to school to hear how their student can earn almost two full years of college credit for no more than $750. Books will be supplied by the Hickman County School Board. No room, board and transportation costs will save families even more money. 
 
Superintendent Wilson held up his wallet and told parents, “This is where I want to get you.” Wilson wants to save parents money on college. He and his staff have worked this school year to come up with a plan to make the word “affordable” go with “college” again. Students will have access to scholarships and grants from Robby Rudolph’s Four Rivers Scholarship Program and from “Gear Up”, a program managed by Hickman County High graduate Jennifer Van Waes, now at Murray State University.
 
Administrators and staff brought together Murray State University, Mid-Continent University, University of Tennessee-Martin and West Kentucky Community and Technical Center to work with the high school and the Fulton County Area Technical School in Fulton County that serves Hickman County Schools in a weaving of classes and funding with the sole goal of getting students moved toward higher education.
 
Falcon Academy will offer a mix of college entry level courses – English 1 & 2, Chemistry, Psychology, College Algebra and Geography and classes that have dual credit – such as Personal Finance. Some classes will be taught at the school. Others will be taking online classes.
 
Robby Rudolph told parents that he was impressed with the turn out. “It’s hard to get people out on a work and school night.” Rudolph, a graduate of Fulton High School, recalled his youth in the River Counties and the energy and activity of those days. He told the parents that “Selfishly, I want these students to come back here and restore this area to its former glory.”
 
At least one college professor will be teaching in person. Students taking College Algebra will take the class from a mathematics professor at Mid-Continent University. He will teach the class two days each week. The other three days, a teacher, Mr. Blaylock, will take over the class and be available to help students having difficulty. 
 
Fulton County Area Technical Center Principal Tom Pyron, at right, told students that the program at the Tech Center is nothing like their parents remember it. “We’re loaded with the latest and greatest technology.” Students can earn certificates in welding, carpentry, machine shop, health science, automotive technology and business subjects.
 
There are expectations. Students must maintain a certain grade point average to earn college credit. They have to attain an 18 in math, 19 in English and 20 in Reading on the American College Test (ACT) to get into college classes. Online classes will be monitored for attendance. Those not logging on regularly will be reported to the high school – or worse get a visit from a college administrator asking “where have you been?”
 
My Class of ’65 graduate recalls his course selection senior year was two study halls and three drivers’ ed courses in one semester. There was nothing left to take and the school couldn’t turn him loose.  He is excited that his favorite class in college, Geography, is being offered to high school students.
 
Go Falcons!

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