Steamboat Springs If Steamboat Springs High School students are up to the challenge, they can earn up to one year of college credit before graduating.
Through the University of Colorado at Denver's Gold Succeed program, advanced-placement courses and the Super Grad program, Steamboat students can take college-level classes and receive credit for them.
"College universities are realizing there are students doing college work in high school. We should allow and encourage it," high school guidance counselor Mike Campbell said.
Campbell said when students reach their graduation requirements, some are not as motivated to take additional classes in core academics.
But with the incentive of receiving college credit, he said students are now requesting more difficult and advanced classes to prepare them for college.
Students can take advance-placement classes in English, biology, calculus, American history, Spanish and French.
Students are tested at the end of the school year and depending on their score will receive college credit for the class.
The CU Succeed program and the Super Grad program offer college-level courses that do not require testing but require a passing grade.
Steamboat Springs High School teachers Sandy Conlon and Lisa Wilderman teach three classes of modern literature and students can enroll in the course for college credit if they choose.
The first semester covers persuasive and argumentative writing with numerous writing and reading assignments.
Students also have to prepare a presentation and portfolio.
During the second semester, students get to explore an introduction to fiction writing.
"I'm so excited to know that we have the opportunity for kids to walk out of here being excellent writers," Conlon said.
The college-level English course provides students with a fresh approach to further develop their writing through essays and creative fiction.
Conlon said students get to critique each other's written work, an invaluable process for all writers.
She said receiving an adjunct professor status to offer college credit for the course required her to submit a resume and proposed syllabus to the university.
"They just don't let anyone teach a course and give college credit for it," she said.
Conlon said the syllabus took about 30 hours to develop.
She said the modern literature class is aligned with the curriculum of a freshman college English class.
Students who take the class for the entire year will receive six credit hours.
The intimate atmosphere and longer class periods of a high school class gives students greater guidance with writing assignments than available in a college setting, Conlon said.
Modern literature is not the only class students can take for college credit.
Students enrolled in Spanish V, French V and college-level American history will receive college credit for passing the course if they register through CU.
For students who want a jump start on college, taking classes at Colorado Mountain College is also an option.
About 50 to 70 high school students enroll in CMC classes each year, Campbell said.
It gives students the "chance to test the waters and see what college is like," he said.
Campbell said students who take classes at the college receive college credit, have greater flexibility in their schedules and have more independence.
"It is kind of a rite of passage for them," said Mike Knezevich, assistant principal at the high school.
Campbell said some students want to be treated like adults and are ready to move on to a college setting.
"They are treated as a college student 100 percent (at CMC)," Campbell said.
Student Services counselor Dan Schaffrick said the number of high school students enrolled in the Super Grad program increased to 61 students, up by about 10 students from last year.
Campbell said students could be challenged in any program they choose.
"Mostly it comes down to getting college credit," he said.