Hayden Secondary Schools senior Brian Hoza is receiving his high school diploma this afternoon, but he also will be receiving his associate’s degree from Colorado Mountain College. He is just one of two students in Routt County to do so.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Hayden Secondary Schools senior Brian Hoza is receiving his high school diploma this afternoon, but he also will be receiving his associate’s degree from Colorado Mountain College. He is just one of two students in Routt County to do so.

More Routt County high schoolers taking college courses

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High school graduations

■ Christian Heritage School: 2 p.m. today at the school

■ Hayden Secondary Schools: 2 p.m. today at the school

■ Soroco High School: 11 a.m. May 28 at the school

■ Yampa Valley School: 1 p.m. June 3 outside at the George P. Sauer Human Services Center

■ The Lowell Whiteman School: 2 p.m. June 3 at the school

■ Steamboat Springs High School: 2 p.m. June 4 at the school

6 will graduate from CHS

After their last exam Thursday, the six Christian Heritage School seniors decided to stay overnight at the private school just west of Steamboat Springs.

That “parting shot,” as Administrator Dave Entwistle called it, symbolizes the family atmosphere at Christian Heritage, he said. And Entwistle said those seniors are a big part of that family and will be missed by the rest of the K-12 school’s students.

Christian Heritage will send off its seniors at 2 p.m. today in a ceremony in the school’s cafeteria. They are Leah Berdine, Andre Buccino, Ryan Hall, Ashley Latham, David Robey and Kristen Williams.

Entwistle said Hall would be recognized for attending the school since kindergarten.

“This is my second year to work for most of them,” he said. “… I have really grown to appreciate them. They are a super group of young people. I am certainly looking forward to seeing how the Lord is going to use them in their futures. I think they’re prepared, ready to move on. And I’m excited to see what happens.”

— When Hayden Secondary Schools senior Brian Hoza gets his high school diploma this afternoon, it will be the second such piece of paper he’s received this month.

Hoza received his associate’s degree from Colorado Mountain College on May 7. He is one of just two students in Routt County who have accomplished the feat this year, but he is part of a growing number who are graduating high school with college degrees.

The Colorado General Assembly approved the Concurrent Enrollment Programs Act in May 2009 to improve the quality of programs and increase access to them.

Before that, students participating in programs to take college classes while still in high school was “really murky,” said Danica Moss, Steamboat Springs High School’s career and college counselor.

“Since then it’s become more clear, which has been more supportive,” she said about the legislation. “It’s very progressive. It opens up more doors and provides more opportunities.”

In addition to an increase in the number and types of classes that students can take, the legislation also opened up concurrent enrollment to all high school students, not just juniors and seniors.

Hoza — Hayden’s valedictorian, one of 38 seniors scheduled to graduate at 2 p.m. today in the school’s gymnasium — started taking college classes as a sophomore.

“I thought it was something that could really help me out down the road,” he said. “I had already worked ahead in a lot of my classes. It seemed like a logical step.”

Interest increasing

Although Steamboat has a number of students concurrently enrolled — about 10 percent of juniors and seniors this semester — Moss said no senior would graduate with an associate’s degree.

She said that’s difficult. Moss said she encourages the right students to take college classes, however. And the numbers show that.

In spring 2009, 13 juniors and seniors were concurrently enrolled. That increased to 29 in fall 2009 and 38 in spring 2010, before dipping slightly this school year to 36 in fall and 31 this semester.

Taking college classes has several advantages, Moss said. She said high school classes don’t challenge some students and college classes expose them to a more strenuous workload. Others want to get ahead. Moss said affordability of community college classes also is a factor.

In Steamboat, the district will pay for two classes, six hours, per semester, Moss said. But she said students have to get approved for the classes, which must be taken during the year, replace a class the high school doesn’t offer and fit into the student’s individual career and academic plan, which is state-mandated.

Moss added that students take classes that are guaranteed to transfer to Colorado’s four-year colleges and universities.

For Hoza, he’s always challenged himself with a rigorous academic schedule, Hayden High School Counselor Nicole Dolence said.

“The main advantage for Brian was that academically, he’s so much more advanced than the courses we offer here,” she said. “Naturally, he had to be on a fast-paced, advanced path.”

Dolence said most Hayden students earn college credits by taking Advanced Placement classes and tests. She said only a few opt to take CMC or other community college classes on their own time, like Hoza. Dolence said many of Hoza’s CMC classes replaced high school classes.

Not alone

Soroco High School senior Alex Smith also has earned an associate’s degree, having been awarded her diploma from Colorado Northwestern Community College’s Rangely campus.

Julie Hoff, director of the South Routt Center for CNCC, said Smith earned her associate’s degree with “grace and poise,” but it was far from simple.

She said about half of the 60 hours Smith needed to take to earn the degree replaced high school classes, and the other half she took in the evenings, on weekends and during summers.

Hoff has advised two other Soroco students who have earned associate’s degrees while still in high school during her tenure, but she said it doesn’t happen often. Still, she said the number of students concurrently enrolled is increasing in South Routt.

She estimated that one-half to three-fourths of Soroco’s graduating class will have earned some college credits by the time they graduate May 28.

For the few who earn associate’s degrees, Hoff said it takes a lot of planning.

“Kids that want to do that, they have to make that commitment early on,” she said. “It means you have to make some choices.”

Hoza said he had to work his college classes around varsity football and basketball, FBLA, National Honor Society, Knowledge Bowl and the Hayden Community Action Network, a community service group.

But Hoza said he’s glad he did.

He’ll be able to skip a lot of prerequisites at Cornell, in Ithaca, N.Y., and jump right into the classes he wants to take to pursue an engineering degree. Hoza also said he’s learned about time management and what it will take to be successful in college.

“I think it will definitely make it easier to transition into college,” he said about earning an associate’s degree. “I think it will be more comfortable and I’ll get off to a better start.”

To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com

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