(WBIR-Knoxville) When Knox County students go back to school in August, a handful of ninth graders will be starting on a college campus.
Career Magnet Academy (CMA) will open to more than 100 freshmen on Pellissippi State Community College's (PSCC) Strawberry Plains campus.
"Within the state of Tennessee, we are the only high school that's located inside a community college. Nationwide, there are only a handful of high schools that are doing the very same thing," said John Faulconer, principal of CMA.
After their freshman year, students will choose one of four career paths: homeland security, advanced manufacturing, teacher preparation, or sustainable living. From there, studies will become more specific.
Students can earn college credits. According to Faulconer, students attend CMA for free.
"Knox County is making sure those dual credits are at no charge to the students, freshman and sophomore year," he said.
Tennessee Promise and funds from the Tennessee Education Lottery will pick up costs for CMA scholars' junior and senior years. Throughout their time at CMA, they will transition to dual enrollment in both Knox County Schools and PSCC.
"A student could literally leave high school with a high school diploma and an associate's degree at the same time," Faulconer said.
"It's revolutionary in that students are going to have such an opportunity to finish college level work. Cost is such a huge issue in attending college and this is something that's going to be a significant impact on that issue," said Mike North, dean at the PSCC's Strawberry Plains campus.
Kennedy Angel, an incoming CMA freshman, comes from Holston Middle School. Kennedy's mother, Sylvia Angel, said the school's program will help her family save money; she has four kids to put through college.
"She's prepared for more years of college but she's excited about going when she should be a junior in high school, and getting college credit," she said.
Kennedy is looking to choose the homeland security path, specifically studies in emergency services.
"It's kind of cool for me. I feel kind of privileged to go ahead and have some college experience and then go into college knowing what I'm doing," she said.
Her brother, Kobe Angel, could follow in her footsteps. As an eighth grader at Holston Middle School, he plans to attend CMA next year. Each year, CMA will add 150 freshmen until they reach 500 students.
Knox County Schools partnered with PSCC and the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce. The chamber looked at jobs that were high paying and in-demand in Knoxville to decide on the four pathways.
A ribbon cutting ceremony will take place at CMA on August 8 at 10 a.m.
School starts August 11.