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[Audio] Hickman County's Falcon Academy Paves the Way in Student Career and College Readiness

Hickman County High School

Hickman County went from ranking 140th to 2nd in the state this year in the state college and career readiness ranking, thanks to its new educational program, Falcon Academy. Kate Lochte speaks with Hickman County High School Principal Kevin Estis on Sounds Good about how the program preps students for college. 

About four years ago, Hickman County school and community leaders came together and conceptualized Falcon Academy, a program allowing high school juniors and seniors to take dual credit courses free of charge. The community agreed to shoulder all costs so students could learn without the financial burden. 

Falcon Academy quickly became one of the model educational programs in the state, and school leaders have been asked to speak at various conferences on the inner workings and implementation of the program.

"It's started a new culture here," Estis says. "The more we invest in something, the better the outcome. And that's a true model for Hickman County." 

Students enrolled in the program rarely leave campus. Many teachers in the high school have accomplished the requirements to teach as adjunct college professors and conduct the classes on campus. Otherwise, students complete online courses directly through accredited colleges. 

It is not abnormal for students to graduate high school with 30 or more college credits under their belt, often finishing college within two to three years. 

The school implements the program with the help of a closely knit staff and community. A separate guidance counselor, secretary and librarian are focused solely on Falcon Academy students, helping them manage responsibilities, meet deadlines and keep in touch with their instructors. 

"The students see the work ethic that's needed to do college classes, to be able to talk to their professors and have that personal relationship," Estis says. "So, the work ethic is already there and they know what to expect when they're out on their own."