At Colorado Mountain College, concurrent enrollment offers a head start to higher education

Thanks to Colorado Mountain College’s concurrent enrollment program, more than 100 students graduated college-wide with a variety of certificates and associate degrees before graduating from high school.

On May 7-8, CMC held commencement ceremonies across the college’s 12,000-square-mile district to celebrate the achievements of hundreds of graduates. Among them, regional high school students enjoyed reaching their own academic milestones.

Through the Colorado Concurrent Enrollment Programs Act, or CEPA, area high school students can gain college experience, education and credits. This year, courses offered through CEPA have earned students Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees as well as certificates in emergency medical technician, early childhood education, nurse aide, basic welding and others.

CEPA Coordinator Carol Carlson at CMC Vail Valley at Edwards said high school students in the program can take tuition-free concurrent enrollment classes, which allows them to explore their passions sooner, graduate from college early and save money.

Chris Stone and Carrie Hauser

CEPA student Chris Stone and CMC President Dr. Carrie Besnette Hauser at the CMC Steamboat Springs commencement on May 8.

“It gives them such a sense of confidence, accomplishment and pride,” Carlson said. “They get to take college-level classes when they might not have thought that they could even do that.”

On his way to ‘Mines’

In Steamboat Springs, Chris Stone earned a college degree through CMC’s CEPA program. He graduated with an Associate of Science degree with a chemistry emphasis.

As a homeschooled student, he sought the guidance of Debbie Arnold, CMC Steamboat college counselor.

“I started my sophomore year and I had never experienced a classroom before,” Stone said. “It prepared me for what college is actually going to look like. It helped me deal with any problems in or out of the classroom.”

Steve Craig, a mathematics professor at the Steamboat campus “helped me figure out what I wanted to do and was really helpful,” said Stone. “All the professors were really nice and the office hours were great.”

Stone credits his accomplishments in CMC’s CEPA program as instrumental in obtaining a direct transfer to Colorado School of Mines. Stone hopes to major in mechanical engineering with a minor in aerospace engineering

“I definitely appreciate CEPA being available,” said Stone. “It’s a really, really valuable resource. I don’t think I would have been able to get this far if I hadn’t been able to do it.”

‘No limit’ to learning

Connor Hoffman just finished his sophomore year at Basalt High School. While still in high school, he’s already earned a Certificate of Occupational Proficiency in information technology networking through CMC’s CEPA program.

Connor Hoffman

Basalt High School sophomore Connor Hoffman has already earned a certificate in information technology networking through CMC and has set his sights on Stanford.

Hoffman began his college experience last fall taking networking classes at CMC. Now, his certificate allows him the possibility of a job that can average around $50,000 – before he even graduates from high school.

“I really like rigorous courses,” said Hoffman. “CMC offers courses that aren’t just harder but ones that I am interested in.”

Hoffman enjoyed learning from CMC faculty Eric Arnette, who teaches computer networking and security.

“I don’t even know if they knew I was in high school,” Hoffman said. “I feel like I really fit in. After class I would list my questions and he always took the time to answer them in a complete way.”

Hoffman said CMC classes have given him an advantage when it comes to his future educational goals.

“I feel like when it comes to college, it’s a very daunting thing,” said Hoffman. “I feel more comfortable now in a college environment. It gave me a good idea of what the future could entail.”

This summer, Hoffman hopes to find an information technology internship and plans to pursue an additional certificate in IT security from CMC. He also hopes on fulfilling his lifelong dream of attending Stanford and is interested in studying electric vehicles, sustainability and engineering.

“I’ve learned that there really is no limit to how far I’d go to keep learning,” said Hoffman. “I feel really reassured. In the classes, it’s not just learning but figuring out how to apply it to the real world.”

‘Making a career’

CMC Vail Valley

Dozens of high school students earned certificates and associate degrees at CMC Vail Valley. Photo by Dave Watson

In Eagle County, 37 high school students earned a certificate or degree. Eagle Valley High School senior Kalie Roybal graduated from CMC with a Certificate of Completion in automotive service technology as well as in automotive transmissions.

“It sounded really cool that you could get college credits being a high schooler,” said Roybal.

“I’m happy I stuck with it and found out it was something I really like,” she said. “It was a lot of real-world experience. It made me excited to start college and see how a college course is run compared to high school.”

Roybal’s success is echoed by 24 other graduates in the Vail Valley who have completed various certifications in automotive services. She attributes her accomplishments to the support of her parents as well as Jim Jones, an associate professor and the director of CMC Vail Valley’s automotive service technology program.

“The way Jim taught made it really enjoyable,” said Roybal. “He helped a lot with finding opportunities for all the students who want to make a career out of this.”

‘CMC definitely helped me’

McKayla McKissack, a senior at Coal Ridge High School, studied college-level Spanish at the CMC Rifle campus and graduated on May 8 with an Associate of Arts degree.

Rfile grads

From left, Juliana Garcia, Kallie Bumgardner, McKayla McKissack, Christian Vasquez and CMC Rifle faculty Camilla Bates at commencement on May 8.

With the help of CMC Rifle CEPA Coordinator Mandie Dovey, she was able to navigate the process of becoming a concurrent enrollment student and selecting the right classes.

McKissack said she began considering concurrent enrollment classes her junior year of high school to reduce the total financial cost of her college education. But now she sees her time at CMC as also giving her insight about her academic potential.

As a varsity athlete in track and field, basketball and soccer, and a member of the National Honor Society, McKissack knew she needed to stay focused and taking CEPA classes helped.

“I learned to stay on top of myself and I’m more organized,” she said. “I am from a small town and I’ve always been in an advanced group. If I had stayed in general classes, it would not have benefited me as much. CMC definitely helped me.”

Now that she has completed her associate degree, McKissack is heading to West Texas A&M University. There, she’ll major in a field she’s passionate about – animal science – with her sights set on earning a bachelor’s degree.