Possum Kingdom Lake-based Texas Alternative School 

helps students all across Texas

Story by Steve Nussbaum

A person in a graduation gown and cap standing next to a person in a graduation gown

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Local PK resident Preston Baldwin accepting his 

diploma from Dr. Shawn “Pecos” Clark

Texas Alternative Home School, based at Possum Kingdom Lake, provides a high school education environment that helped more than 600 students graduate last year from across Texas.

The school is the brainchild of local PK resident Dr. Shawn “Pecos” Clark, who founded the program while serving as director of a trade college in Odessa, Texas. Clark noted that students needed a General Educational Development (GED) degree to enroll at the college, so he developed a method to help those that needed a little educational assistance.

“The biggest misconception is you can just go pass the GED,” he said. “It’s like trying to run a mile after not practicing for a while.”

Texas Alternative Home School provides a path for students who might find passing the battery of five exams designed by the American Council on Education to measure high school equivalency difficult after being out of school for a while.

The program, which started out in 2010 as a school for those who were told they couldn’t graduate, has now morphed into a school for a wide variety of people who may need an alternative to the typical public high school education.

Clark added that the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the school to offer its programs by correspondence, so it now has graduates across the nation, too.

“Life happens for many people,” Clark said. “We provide an alternative for those who still want to get their high school education.”

More than half of the school’s students go on to attend trade school or college, and the school has great relationships with school districts across the state, helping those institutions eliminate their dropout rates.

Texas Alternative Home School helps the students graduate while also assisting them in finding jobs. The school has partnered with companies across the state to hire its graduates and hopefully guide them to well-paying careers.

Texas Alternative Home School is a nonprofit that takes no money or grants from the government, but it does take donations such as boats, used cars and other items.

The institution has had several local students in Palo Pinto County and Stephens County graduate from its program. Each student has his or her own story, and they are encouraged to try and finish their public education first. But if that isn’t possible, Clark’s school is there to help them.

“If we get a student at 14, they usually have graduated by the time they are 17,” he said, which allows those students to move on and start jobs or college at an earlier age than the typical high school graduate.

The school is unique in that many of its classes aren’t strictly online; instead, it offers in-person learning combined with instructional correspondence. Educators assist the students between classes via computer video sessions and other related online technology.

“Our curriculum is through Accelerated Christian Education,” Clark said. “Programs are offered in person. However, if the students are not able to enroll or attend in person, since COVID-19, we also offer our program by correspondence. We actually mail our students the ACE curriculum to do at home.”

Texas Alternative Home School is not an online institution, Clark noted.

“You can enroll online, but all curriculum and assignments are done in the ACE ‘paces,’ in which students have in their possession, read, write in and complete,” he said. “We take pride in knowing our students and their families on a first-name basis.”

In recent years, Clark said, Texas Alternative Home School has graduated between 30 and 40 local students.

Clark, along with his wife, Christina, and their 8-year-old son, Jackson, has called PK home since 2012. He and his wife bought a cabin in Sportsman’s World, then later moved to The Hills. They still have their place at Sportsman’s World, though, and Clark says he and his wife will always be a part of that community.

Clark said he considers Roy Davis a mentor, and has huge respect for what Davis has done at Sportsman’s World to make that community what it is today.

“I’ve always admired Roy’s people skills, and how he goes out of his way to help others in the PK community, not just Sportsman’s World,” Clark said.

Clark said he got the nickname “Pecos” from his time growing up on cattle ranches in West Texas and southeastern New Mexico, and never in his wildest dreams did he think he would get his doctoral degree and lead a statewide school helping hundreds of people improve their lives.

According to him, sometimes things fall into place, and there are people out there who help us reach our goals. Clark tips his hat to many of his former colleagues and connections for his success, but his family’s Texas roots anchored his can-do attitude.

“I give credit to how I was raised by my family,” Clark said, noting especially “their work ethic and how they have always gone above and beyond to help someone when needed.”

“My biggest influence was my great-grandmother ‘Nanny’ Una Clark,” he added. “She actually came from Palo Pinto County’s Lone Camp community and was the oldest of 10 kids. They were starving in the Great Depression, so they moved to West Texas. She ended up raising all of her siblings and their kids, and just had one son as a result. He was my grandfather Jack, and (my son) Jackson was named after him.”

For now, the Clarks are full-time residents of The Hills Above Possum Kingdom, with no plans to change things. Their son is a student in Graham, Texas, at Open Door Christian School. The Clarks said they want to raise their son at Possum Kingdom, and know that if he does well here that there’s no telling the opportunities he will have later in life.

Clark said his favorite part of living at the lake is the lifestyle it provides his family. He and his wife love the community, and they enjoy how each area of the lake community has its own style and flair.

“No matter what part of the lake you may live, we all come together to support the community,” he said.

Clark described his wife as a “goddess” for putting up with him, and the ability to run a business remotely in a location such as PK appears to be working well not just for him and his family, but for his students across the state, too.

For more information about Texas Alternative Home School, call (817) 920-7622 or visit the website https://www.texasalternativehs.org/.