Editor’s note: This story is the third in a series of articles that will highlight PRTC’s Smart Rural Community award from NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association.
As Frankie Baldwin begins her senior year at Owsley County High School, she has a plan for the future and college-level credits on her record. “I want to go into forensic criminology or anthropology; something like that,” she says.
And thanks to a dual credits program used by about half of the high school’s juniors and seniors, she’ll have a big head start on that degree when she graduates.
During their school day, participating students attend at least one class that counts toward future degrees.
The experience also taught Baldwin about the expectations for college students. “In high school, they have to feed everything to you with a spoon,” Baldwin says. “In a college class, you don’t have someone pushing you to do the work. They just expect you to do it.”
Personalized and connected
The dual credits program is part of the county’s District of Innovation push. It started when the Kentucky Department of Education tested Web-based learning as a way to help students continue their education when weather closed schools.
That 2010 initiative proved successful, and educators wanted to expand the idea. They developed a range of tools, including student-specific education plans, college instructors who teach on the high school campus, video-based distance learning and dual credits programs.
Broadband Internet now adds to the tools connecting students and instructors, says Stacey Davidson, Owsely County Schools’ instructional supervisor.
All Owsley High School students have access to software tools such as Blackboard, which allows students and teachers to interact online.
Connecting educational institutions to the world through broadband is one reason Peoples Rural Telephone Cooperative’s service area was designated a “Smart Rural Community” by NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association. NTCA developed the Smart Rural Community award as a way to recognize cooperatives that are promoting and using broadband networks to foster innovative economic development, education, health care and government services.
The University of Pikeville, Hazard Community & Technical College, and Morehead State University have all participated in the dual credits program, which costs as little as $50 per semester.
Before Willa Richardson graduated from Owsley High in 2014, she built college credits while also staying active in school and community activities. “There was no computer or Internet at our house,” she says. “It was difficult at times to do it all, but I managed.”
At Berea College, her focus is child and family studies. College-level classes in high school prepared her for her first writing class at Berea. “It put me well ahead of everyone else,” she says.
Once she earns a college degree, she hopes to return to Owsley County as a representative of Partners for Education at Berea College. “I would like to go back and be an advocate for students,” she says.