Hazel Green Academy’s Allure

Susan Orlean, of the New Yorker, once said that living in a rural region exposes the body and mind to marvelous things: the natural world, the “particular texture” of small-town life, and the “exhilarating experience” of open space. It’s not difficult to argue that.

Located in a remote town in the hills of eastern Kentucky, Hazel Green Academy, set among the hardwoods and abutting flowing pastures, opened to students in 1880. The private school offered a good education to the under-served and boasted low tuition rates and a stepping stone to college and “a higher sphere in life.”

The school’s curriculum consisted mostly of college preparatory courses, and students were expected to participate in religious activities—not at all surprising as it was operated in part by the Christian Woman’s Board of Mission of Kentucky and then the United Christian Missionary Society, a branch of the Disciples of Christ Christian Church.

Time marched on. By the mid-1920s, the Academy boasted a 212-acre farm, a used clothing store, a small hospital, and a kindergarten, along with a gymnasium, administration building, classrooms, and an arts and crafts complex. But free public education began sweeping through the state throughout the early 20th century, and by 1929, Hazel Green only offered courses for middle and high school students. In 1965, grades 7 and 8 were dropped because of low demand.

Hazel Green Academy became an independent institution affiliated with the Christian Church in 1971 and began a major push to strengthen its fundraising and recruitment efforts. It was only a temporary solution to the long-term decline of the school. Owing to an increasing fiscal deficit, the Board of Directors voted in June 1983 to not reopen that fall.

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I was faculty at HGA 1979-81: taught French, social studies, Bible, letterpress printing, photography, amateur radio, directed the handweaving craft industry, sponsored the folk dance club, supervised breakfast, backup director in the boys’ dorm, and was on the volunteer fire department. A good use of my many talents. Most of my fellow staff were doing their ‘mission work’ and were content with the $6K a year salary, plus free room and board, meaning that you had to stay on campus almost 24/7, always on call, no alcohol, no smoking [not that I did], no benefits, no retirement, no PDA (especially between students; that’s why the folk dance club was so popular!) The amateur radio club hit the 1979 sunspot cycle peak with great conditions for worldwide contacts, led by KA4EMR myself, WB4FCG George SK, director, and N4BRZ Bob, principal.

I was a student there in 1968. I was suppose to graduate with the class of ’72 but my dad moved me to Oklahoma in mid 11th grade. I found that HGA is one of the most favorite memories that I have. The campus was beautiful, the students and staff were all wonderful people. I felt good and safe at HGA. I had so many good experiences there and a great education. I wish the state could find someway to re-open it so many more people could have the great experiences that I had.

Graduated 1972. Best student environment and education ever. So sad it’s no longer an option for the children of this area. Beautiful pictures.

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