Members of the Pike County Schools Early College Academy pose with officials from Big Sandy Community and Technical College and the Pike County School District on Friday, August 14 on our Pikeville campus. Ricky Mullins is the first in his family to attend college.

However, Mullins path to college is unconventional.

The 16-year-old junior at Shelby Valley High School is one of ten members of the inaugural class of the Pike County Schools Early College Academy, a partnership between Big Sandy Community and Technical College (BSCTC) and the Pike County School District.

I come from a poor family, and this opportunity will save me a lot of money and will allow me to get a jump start on college, said Mullins, who hopes to pursue a doctorate degree in astrophysics. Ill not only be the first in my family to go to college, but thanks to programs like the Early College Academy, I will be the first in my family to graduate college.

Through the partnership, the 10 Pike County high school students will attend classes on the Pikeville campus of BSCTC. Students will have the opportunity to earn an associate degree during their junior and senior of high school debt free.
Dr. Devin Stephenson, president of BSCTC, encouraged students to shoot beyond the stars.

Why say the sky is the limit when there are footprints on the moon? he asked students. Take advantage of this opportunity and embrace those in your support system that will walk with you on your journey throughout higher education.

David Lester, superintendent of Pike County Schools, said the Early College Academy demonstrates the strong relationship between the school district and BSCTC.

This has been a great collaboration because we both had serving students as a top priority, he said. I think this is just the beginning of a wonderful partnership that will bring so many opportunities to our students.

Phillip Birchfield, director of instruction for Pike County Schools, commended staff at the Early College Academy Director of Instruction Sherry Heise and Counselor Kathy Fletcher for their work into turning this dream into a reality.

Our team has worked hard to make sure everything is in place, said Birchfield. I also want to thank the staff at Big Sandy, particularly Melinda Justice, associate dean of learning support services, Jessica Gambill and Provost Dr. Nancy Johnson.

Hannah Adkins, a 16-year-old junior at Pike Central High School, said the Early College Academy will challenge her and better prepare her for her goal of becoming a gastrointestinal physicians assistant.

I want to be challenged, and I know thats going to happen here, she said. This is going to allow me the opportunity to take a significant step in reaching my goal a little earlier than I once thought.

Students in the Pike County Early College Academy are: Hannah Adkins, Pike Central High School; Nathaniel Bevins, Belfry High School; Joshua Griffith, Pike Central High School; Jordan Hampton, Shelby Valley High School; Rodney James, Shelby Valley High School; Jordan Justice, Shelby Valley High School; Ricky Mullins, Shelby Valley High School; Tyce Riddle, Shelby Valley High School; Blake Thompson, Pike Central High School; and Abby Varney, Pike Central High School.