Our People – Joey DeLia

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Vail Valley 17-year-old gets college degree

By Sarah Mausolf, Vail Daily

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado — Joey DeLia will be double-fisting diplomas this spring.

He’s just 17, but he’s already graduating from Colorado Mountain College with an associate of science degree May 1.

And did I mention his graduation from Eagle Valley High School is a few weeks after that?

DeLia said he started taking dual-enrollment classes — courses that count for both high school and college credit — at Eagle Valley High School in Gypsum during his junior year.

Two chemistry classes, two U.S. history courses and two college-level math classes later, an idea hit him.

“By the end of the year I was like ‘Wow, I already have 20 credits. I wonder if it would be possible to get an associates degree?’” DeLia said.

He logged summer and night courses at the college, along with a bunch more dual-enrollment classes at the school.

His hard work paid off.

Not only did he rack up enough credits for the degree, as of this week, he boasted a 4.17 GPA at the high school.

Perhaps the best part: DeLia will have a bunch of credits out of the way when he heads to the University of Denver after high school graduation, which is set for May 29.

“I can probably get a bachelor’s degree in 2 1/2 years,” he said. “That cuts my tuition in half, basically.”

DeLia hopes to major in business, go to law school and become a patent lawyer.

A young patent lawyer, if all goes well.

The ambitious teens’ parents, Rich and Mindy DeLia, are delighted.

“It’s a wonderful accomplishment,” said Rich DeLia, who owns a commercial refrigeration company with his wife. “He’s disciplined himself to succeed and he’s doing a fine job. I’m very proud of him, to say the least.”

It’s pretty rare for students to get associates degrees while still in high school.

Carol Carlson, dual-enrollment coordinator at Colorado Mountain College in Edwards, said about one Vail Valley student each year usually achieves that goal.

New laws have made it easier for high school students across the state to earn college credits at Colorado Mountain College.

For example, ninth- and 10th-graders became eligible to take concurrent enrollment classes at their high schools. Previously, just 11th and 12th-graders were eligible for the classes. The change also allowed students who test below college level on basic classes to start taking remedial courses during their senior year of high school.

It’s up to each high school to decide which classes to offer, said Deborah “Sunny” Schmitt, assistant vice president for academic affairs at Colorado Mountain College.

“I’m really hoping a lot of high schools will begin to participate because we can get students college ready much earlier than they would be otherwise,” Schmitt said.

Locally, about 300 students at Battle Mountain, Eagle Valley and Red Canyon high schools participate in dual enrollment, Carlson said.

Many of the new state initiatives, which went into effect in May 2009, were already underway in the Vail Valley when they became official, she said.

One new rule affected high school freshmen and sophomores here. Previously, underclassmen who took dual-enrollment courses at the high school had to pay the tuition up front, then receive refunds from the school district if they scored above a C. Now, the school district pays for the tuition up front, keeping the classes free for students as long as they get a passing grade. School districts pay tuition for the dual-enrollment courses they offer.

This story was reprinted from the April 27 edition of the Vail Daily.