Have a Little Faith in Me: The Birth of Faith First Academy
By Ashley Daniels
For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.
Faith first. It’s the foundational doctrine for the private Faith First Academy (FFA) Christian school here at Solid Rock at Market Common.
It’s also the path in life the school’s principal, Derek Price, has followed from the beginning, but not without a few detours before his arrival in Myrtle Beach two years ago.
He and his wife, Haley, first met in high school in east Tennessee, never dated then, but reconnected in college at Northeast State Community College and to East Tennessee State University “It’s a God thing … It’s a God story, looking back every part of it,” says Price. “We were young in love and we just couldn’t wait to get married. I was on the path to my education degree in college, and probably young and immature because I made the decision to drop out of college to go work in the paper industry, which I did for about five years. My whole family is in the paper industry, so I knew I could get a good sustainable job there.”
But God was making it clear to Price that the family paper business wasn’t his calling and purpose after all.
“He was pushing me to go back into teaching,” he says. “I feel like all along he was calling me to teach and go into education. I didn’t know exactly what for, but he made it clear. And I fought it for a while, but my wife really pushed me to go back to school. So it was from God.”
Price had faith in that nudge, so returned to finish his bachelor’s degree at East Tennessee State in interdisciplinary studies online while simultaneously working at the paper mill. After that, he dove right into earning his master’s degree from Tusculum University and landed a job teaching middle school in Tennessee for about a year. It was then that the couple had an itch to move to the beach.
“We were talking about how we don’t have kids yet, and we always talked about moving to the beach – that was always kind of a dream for us,” says Price. “We said, ‘If we’re going to go for it, let’s go for it. So we really took a leap of faith and moved here without jobs.”
Putting faith first, Price found God opening another door for him shortly after his move to Myrtle Beach through a job as a teacher at St. James Middle School. God next opened the door to Solid Rock at Market Common.
“We were looking for a church and, to be completely honest, we did a Google search and Solid Rock was close,” he says. “We walked into Solid Rock just because of geography, but that day, it changed our lives forever.”
The Prices immediately got involved in everything they could at the church, got to know members, and got close to Pastor JP and his wife, Mica. Last winter, JP planted a seed by mentioning to Price that he’d like to start a Christian school someday, which later evolved into a job proposal.
“I said, ‘Of course, any way I can help you, just let me know,’” he says. “Anybody that knows pastor JP knows that when he has a vision and gets something on his mind, he moves pretty quickly. Shortly thereafter, he approached me, he said, ‘Hey, let’s get this thing going as quickly as we can. I think we can do it next year, and I want you to be the principal.’”
Price did a lot of praying and soul-searching with Haley, who was skeptical at first.
“But I got clarity from God and I told my wife that this is clearly God’s will. This is what he wants me to do,” he says, “and her attitude totally shifted from that first conversation we had. She was fully on board with the plan and she has been so supportive through the whole thing. It’s all about God just lining things up with stepping stones in my plan.
FFA originally opened in fall 2022 for students in grades 1 through 5. Since then, however, they’ve expanded to include middle school through eighth grade and, in fall 2023, the school is adding 9th grade. The goal is to eventually offer K-12 once Solid Rock at Market Common is on its newer, bigger campus. … Enrollment is increasing every week.
“I couldn’t have seen this happening, but we had a vision for a Christian school at the beginning, and that is precisely what God has done,” says Price. “I can’t believe how this ministry is really thriving – it’s crazy.
Price says the mission of FFA is to give parents an opportunity to send their kids to a Christian school at an affordable rate, teach them life skills through a solid curriculum with a Biblical worldview. And Solid Rock is doing everything they can through scholarships to give as many kids as they can that opportunity.
FFA follows the Bob Jones curriculum, a homeschooling curriculum built around the Christian worldview. In every subject, from history to literature to science and more, the word of God is incorporated into everything the students study.
“We want people to get excited about science because God is evidence of that science … That’s the main thing that makes us stand out. Everything comes back to Jesus,” says Price.
Another standout of FFA is their Fun Friday, an exploratory, non-academic day. Students explore art class, drama, drum circle, foreign languages, nutrition, and more. It’s also a tight-knit community.
“We never want to be too big that we don’t have close relationships with our students and parents,” says Price. “We know our parents very well. They’re free to come by and eat lunch with the kids. They’re free to sign up to volunteer for the kids to be a part of the school. We want it to be a real family atmosphere.”
Derek and Haley’s family has also grown since their move to Myrtle Beach, with the birth of their son, Luke, now 9 months old.
“It’s been a full blessing,” says Price. “It’s been a learning experience and I’ve never had to lean on God as much as I have in this position and I’ve never had God reveal things to me almost on a daily basis like I have. … He has guided my steps. He has brought me here. And, every day, I know I’m doing exactly what he’s called me to do.”
Faith First Academy is currently accepting applications for student enrollment for the 2023-2024 school year. For more information, visit https://faithfirstacademy.org/,
Faith First Academy students and staff
Faith First Academy art class