A Brief History of Happy Hill Farm and North Central Texas Academy
Happy Hill Farm was opened in 1975, with 20 students in a mobile home. In 1977, an old house was moved to the property, refurbished, and became a new home for the school. Renovated classroom buildings, purchased for a pittance from the FWISD, were added the next year. The first five boys taken into care were living with the Shipmans and the Browns (HHF’s first employees) in a leased residence on the campus. Dreams were large. Bank accounts were small, comprised primarily of the Shipman family’s savings. Skeptics were in abundance, but the Shipmans clung doggedly to what they believed was God’s calling for their lives . . . to provide a safe haven and a residential school where underprivileged students could turn their dreams into a reality. Now, decades later, North Central Texas Academy, located on the beautiful, 500-acre campus of Happy Hill Farm, has grown into one of the finest private, fully-accredited, Christian boarding and day schools in the country. Underprivileged students on scholarship, international, and local day students — all with the motivation, determination, and ability to pursue higher education and success in life — study within college-preparatory environment taught from a Christian worldview.
From the Beginning
It was 1974, Ed and Gloria Shipman, in their forties, lived in their country home on acreage just outside Dallas-Fort Worth. Ed was happy in his ministry and work. Their two sons, Chuck and Todd, were sixteen and fourteen years of age. The family was “comfortable.” Little did the Shipman’s realize that a telephone call for help from a local Marshall was about to change the whole course of their lives. In response to that Marshall’s appeal for help, the Shipman’s took briefly into their home two teenage runaway sisters. In an effort to find a permanent home for the girls, the Shipman’s visited facilities available to children throughout Texas. The sisters were finally placed in a small children’s home near Austin . . . but the Shipman family had been gripped emotionally. They were now primarily aware of the desperate plight of thousands of America’s boys and girls — those with potential to succeed, yet with no opportunity. The Shipman’s were in the midst of developing a private, gated community on land purchased from a dear lady, “Aunt Bill Flippin.” When they changed direction, and told “Aunt Bill” their plans for turning her land into a place for helping children, she was delighted. She spent many of those early years being a grandmother to many of the first boys and girls at Happy Hill Farm. There is a rock wall with a plaque, right at the entrance of the campus, where her home used to sit.
A year later, 1975, with personal financial resources sufficient to last only a few years, but with what they felt to be a sense of Divine direction, the Shipman’s opened their hearts and officially opened the doors of Happy Hill Farm to a group of young boys. Now, over four decades later, North Central Texas Academy is fully-accredited and functions as a private boarding and day school. Boys and girls (ages six to eighteen) live on the campus year-round. Some students attend the private Academy by day. Fees and tuition from the families account for a very small percent of the Academy’s annual budget. The balance, to cover all of the students’ residential and educational needs, comes from the private sector. Happy Hill Farm and North Central Texas Academy do not receive any State or Federal funding. It is not a United Way agency.
North Central Texas Academy is located on the property of Happy Hill Farm, which is a 500-acre farm-campus including a fully-accredited (K-12) private school, designed to accommodate approximately 275 students. There is an athletic center, dining center, fine arts center, home-like residences for boarding students, staff housing, an 18,000 square foot agricultural center with a show ring, livestock pens, stables and riding trails, athletic fields, swimming pool, tennis courts, a welcome center, an inn and training center, and an administrative center.
As a working farm, Happy Hill Farm raises much of its own beef, lamb, and pork. There is a professional equine program and even a petting zoo. The Academy has a very large and active FFA, 4-H, and horticulture program. Some of the students care daily for the livestock. Grain and hay crops are grown for the animals. Gardens are planted and tended.
North Central Texas Academy’s boys’ and girls’ teams excel in track, football, volleyball, basketball, baseball, tennis, golf, soccer, and more, competing in TAPPS, the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools League. The gym’s trophy case is packed, bearing testimony to the students’ hard work and athletic abilities. Multiple State Championships have been won by the “Pioneers.”
North Central Texas Academy is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and is a member of The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS), the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools (TAPPS), the Texas Private Schools Association, and the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI).