By Heather McGregor
Lee Harrison was coasting through Rifle High School, earning mediocre grades, when his English teacher gave him an academic jolt. Her efforts got Harrison to focus on achievement when she persuaded him to take college-level classes while still in high school.
Harrison credits his teacher, Terri Scott, along with Colorado Mountain College’s concurrent enrollment classes, for his success when he continued his education at Colorado Mesa University.
“Those three classes did not cost anything,” Harrison said. “I was done with half a semester when I started college, and I was able to get into the marketing classes right away. It jump-started my career.”
Harrison was the commencement speaker at the concurrent enrollment graduation ceremony held May 7 at CMC Rifle. The ceremony recognized 45 students from Grand Valley, Rifle and Coal Ridge high schools who have earned certificates in basic welding and cutting, basic culinary skills, nurse aide, pipe welding or early childhood education.
Concurrent enrollment classes are offered in these career and technical areas, and more will be added in the 2018-19 school year, said Jenny Boone, concurrent enrollment coordinator for CMC Rifle. High school students can also take college-level academic classes, such as biology, history, Spanish and math, to get a free head start on college credit hours.
An accelerated path
With a lighter course load, commencement speaker Harrison said he landed four high-quality internships during college and graduated from Colorado Mesa in 2017 with a 3.5 grade point average.
Today he lives in Grand Junction, where he is the marketing coordinator for Seek Outside, a manufacturer of tents and backpacks. He also has a side business with two friends, Beyond City Limits Outdoor Media, making films about hunting, angling and other outdoor pursuits.
At CMC Rifle’s concurrent enrollment graduation ceremony, Harrison said that the concurrent enrollment courses at Rifle High School put him on an accelerated path to success.
Don’t waste a day
Harrison recalled that as a high school junior, he worried about being able to keep up in a college-level English class.
“There’s a bit of self-reliance you have to have,” he said. “You will have to do things for yourself in the concurrent classes. But half the battle is to show up for class and pay attention – not be on your phone, not be distracted.
“If you are afraid you can’t do it, just sign up, go to class every day and listen, and you’ll be fine,” he said.
Harrison still has a constant thirst for education.
“I am still trying to learn something new every day. Now, getting knowledge is second nature,” he said. “Before that turning point in high school, it was a struggle. Now I can sit and learn about technical things for hours.”
That theme informed the message he offered in his CMC Rifle commencement speech.
“Give yourself a pat on the back now, but tomorrow is a new day,” Harrison told the high school students. “You’ve got to learn something, to achieve something, or else it is a wasted day. And I don’t think anyone wants to have a wasted day.”
To learn about concurrent enrollment opportunities, contact your high school guidance counselor before the end of this school year.