Nontraditional route

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This article was published in the Rifle Citizen Telegram. By Theresa Hamilton.

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Whitney Vance received her associate degree from Colorado Mountain College May 2, nearly a month before she’ll walk as part of Rifle High School’s graduation.

Rifle High School senior Whitney Vance isn’t one for order.

For Vance and fellow Rifle High School senior Kylie Orgill, the tradition of earning a high school diploma before an advanced degree is thrown out the window.

Vance and Orgill are the two Garfield Re-2 students who will be receiving associate degrees from Colorado Mountain College May 2, nearly a month before they walk as part of Rifle High School’s graduation. Dozens more Garfield Re-2 high school students will graduate with some college credit due to their participation in Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or concurrent enrollment classes as part of their high school career. Others still will leave with certificates as certified nursing associates, in welding or have marketable skills through the culinary arts program, making them ready for jobs when they leave school.

“I’m so excited,” Vance said. “I only have to be in college for two years after high school to graduate. Sign me up for that!”

Vance took classes with high school students, with local students, with students across the valley via online classes and said that the learning with different students is all part of the “college experience.”

“It was a little awkward at first, but as you get to know people, it just felt like a normal class. So many things would be better if we would just talk to people,” she explained.

While Vance says that she thrives in the advanced class environment, she believes all students can find their niche — it’s just a matter of focus.

“You don’t have to be extremely smart to take advanced classes,” she said. “You just have to buckle down and be focused. My biggest thing to deal with was the time management — between commuting (she was living in Parachute and attending Rifle High School for a time), sports and academics it can be overwhelming.”

Vance will be attending Grand Canyon University in the fall with plans to double major in accounting and business management. She wants to focus her energy on how the cut and dry numbers can directly impact the success of an organization and its people. She will enter college as a junior, and it should take her just five semesters to graduate because of all the advanced classes that she has taken. Colleges and universities look at advanced classes slightly differently, so each student’s transfer credits should be discussed with the school as part of the admission process.

Students at both Coal Ridge High School and Rifle High School can graduate with college credit in a variety of ways. Coal Ridge High School offers many advanced placement classes beginning freshman year. Rifle High School has the International Baccalaureate program. Freshmen and sophomores take advanced classes to prepare for IB classes that begin junior year. In order to receive college credit, both programs require students to take an end-of-year exam and achieve a specific score.

Other options include concurrent enrollment classes offered through Colorado Mountain College. The school district will pay for up to six credit hours a semester provided those students maintain a C average or better. Students must prove college reading ability through their ACT scores or the Accuplacer assessment. Classes offered through CMC include classes like English composition, conversational Spanish and college algebra/trigonometry.

Vance loved the opportunity to interact with students of all ages and adds that all Garfield Re-2 students should take advantage of the opportunities available to them.

“The district offers so much — IB classes at Rifle High School, CMC classes. Take advantage of it. It will reduce the amount you pay in the future — even if you are looking at CMC — get those classes taken care of before you graduate. Take a class here and there and get the bill down.”

Vance and Orgill will graduate May 2 from CMC with associate degrees and May 23 from Rifle High School with high school diplomas.