HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Huntsville City Schools superintendent Casey Wardynski sat next to Robert Altenkirch, president of the University of Alabama in Huntsville as they signed an agreement bringing a unique College Academy to the under-construction Jemison High School.
The first twenty current middle schoolers that will make up the pilot class -- and their parents -- watched as their futures began to take shape.
"Today is really the beginning of the College Academy," said superintendent Wardynski.
"I could not find a college academy structured like this one," said Altenkirch.
"This is such a great opportunity for those of us at UAH to be able to share our knowledge and our passion with these young students," said Carolyn Sanders, a professor at the university who will be teaching the magnet students at Jemison.
UAH professors will teach courses at the high school. From freshman year, students will take college courses; during their junior and senior years, they will take some courses on UAH's campus.
When they graduate, they'll be a college junior academically (60-63 credits), but a freshman for financial aid purposes, which means they could achieve their masters on a four-year scholarship.
"The reason I'm so excited to go to this college academy is because I don't have to pay that much for college," laughed middle schooler Isabella Fratangelo.
The pilot class is made up of today's seventh graders, so they can start their freshman year in the fall of 2016 -- and the way the program is structured, 25% of every class admitted has to come from Jemison's feeder school, McNair Junior High.
"It gives the kids at McNair motivation to think they have spots set aside for them," said McNair parent Raynard Jones, whose son will attend the academy. "It will push them to be the best among their peers so they, too, can have the same opportunity my son earned today."