Steamboat Springs Surrounded by gas spigots and beakers in a Colorado Mountain College science lab on Tuesday, Christine Krentz fired up an iPad to take notes.
She later admitted that she arrived to her biology class in Bristol Hall Room 217 last month holding onto a secret.
“At first, I was nervous about how everyone would react to it,” she said.
But a couple days into the class, she revealed to her college classmates that she was only a sophomore at Steamboat Springs High School, and at 15 years old, she can’t even drive to school.
“I thought it would be awkward,” Krentz said. “But it’s been great. Everyone here has been so respectful and nice.”
After they correctly answered a set of questions about the properties of a cell’s phospholipid bilayer posed by teacher Rebecca Sears, it was hard to tell that Krentz and her friend Kestral Johnston, also a sophomore at Steamboat Springs High School, were the youngest students in Routt County taking notes in a college classroom.
Krentz and Johnston are two of 40 students from high schools in Routt County who this year are utilizing CMC’s concurrent enrollment program that allows high school students to earn college credit in courses at the Alpine Campus.
“In high school, you’re not always challenged,” Krentz said Tuesday. “Up here, you’re more at your own pace, and you get a more specialized education.”
Krentz is following in the footsteps of her brother Brandon, who plans to earn his associate degree from CMC before he is handed his high school diploma.
“It all started with him,” Christine Krentz said. “I’m thinking about going into the medical field, and these college courses will help me decide what I want to do before I leave high school.”
CMC counselor Amy Phillips said Tuesday that the number of high school students enrolling in classes at the Alpine Campus has increased steadily since the dual enrollment program was initiated four years ago. She said that although enrollment has started to stabilize at about 40 students, she is seeing more students this year taking advanced and specialized courses such as Calculus II and Calculus-Based Physics II as they strive to enter specialized fields such as biomedicine and engineering.
“We still have several students taking courses here to meet core requirements, but I’ve started to see more of them taking upper-division classes and working toward getting their associate degree at the same time they graduate high school,” she said.
She said this semester’s group of concurrently enrolled students is taking 240 credits in more than 22 courses that range from English composition to economics and art history to college algebra.
CMC Alpine Campus Chief Executive Officer Peter Perhac said Tuesday that the courses give students like Krentz and Johnston an early taste of the college experience and that to have a high school sophomore in the program is an exceptional occurrence.
“It’s economical for parents, and we want to give them the college experience much earlier,” Perhac said.
Steamboat Springs High School Principal Kevin Taulman said the program continues to have many benefits for the 34 students he has taking classes through CMC.
“I think it meets a lot of different needs,” he said. “Sometimes they solve scheduling conflicts, and we have students who are working to get their associate degrees at the same time they get their high school diplomas.”