Cardiologist. Finance Manager. Video Game Developer. Emergency Room Surgeon. These are just a few of the careers mentioned by DPS students during a student panel roundtable discussion with the Colorado Department of Higher Education (CDHE) April 14, led by CDHE Executive Director Dr. Kim Hunter Reed.
For DPS students, these career dreams are realities within reach, with access to programs that provide earlier exposure to college and career paths. The roundtable discussion focused on concurrent enrollment as a pathway toward higher education — an appealing program to many DPS students because it allows them to earn free college credit while still in high school, giving them a head start on their college and career goals.
Oliver Martinez-Reyes has a plethora of hobbies, ranging from learning new instruments, taking Italian lessons, playing basketball and utilizing his finance skills acquired at DPS to teach second graders — in Spanish — about taxes and what it means to be financially literate. As a Career Education Center Early College (CEC) senior with two internships under his belt, he has already earned 50 college credit hours through concurrent enrollment — almost enough for an associate’s degree — while still in high school.
Available at all DPS high schools, as well as select charter schools, many concurrent enrollment credits are transferable to a two or four year degree program. DPS is leading the state with the highest number of students participating in concurrent enrollment during the 2015-16 school year (totaling 2,531), according to a recent report released from CDHE.
“Concurrent enrollment is a critical component in the shift to provide our DPS students multiple pathways to college and career, as a proven, effective strategy in increasing graduation rates, college enrollment rates and instilling confidence in our students. Our students work really hard, and it is important for them to know college is attainable for them and we have the tools and support they need to be successful,” explains Dr. Kim Poast, Executive Director of the DPS Office of College and Career Readiness.
Across the state, more than 30% of high school juniors and seniors participated in concurrent enrollment during the 2015-16 school year. While progress is certain, districts across the state are working toward generating more participation.
“We’ve long been aware of the benefits these programs offer, giving high school students an early college start and boosting college going rates. While I am pleased with the program growth, we still have too many high school students who do not have this opportunity. We must work collaboratively to change that,” said Dr. Kim Hunter Reed.
DPS sets high expectations in a challenging environment, so students are motivated to achieve more as they progress in their education — something DPS students have taken notice of and appreciate.
“I am very grateful for the opportunity to take college classes on a high school campus. It has been vital to my growth and demolished my fear for college classes. It has given me an idea on what to expect in college, while challenging my limits with coursework.” said Lumiere Sidonie, a junior at High Tech Early College.
Most jobs in Colorado — now and in the future — require training or education beyond high school, and course offerings such as concurrent enrollment help prepare students for the increased rigor they will experience in college.
“As a first-generation student, I feel like concurrent enrollment is extra valuable because it gives you a means to transition from high school to college in a safe setting where you have support systems not only from your high school but also from a college advisor. Also, it’s overall an adventure you can take, and will open up your mind to more complex ideas and thinking than what is experienced at the high school level,” explained Arcely Fuentes, a CEC senior.
The student panel yielded a unified, inspiring common theme: don’t be afraid of failure, instead, embrace all the possibilities as potential avenues for discovering your life mission.
“Don’t let fear of failure prevent you from taking concurrent enrollment courses. Failure is another word for opportunity.” said Sidonie.
“Fail fast. Fail forward,” said Martinez-Reyes.
“I was afraid of failing, but we all push each other,” added Joanna Felix-Rivera, a CEC junior.
Participation in concurrent enrollment is based on a student’s college-readiness, as well as their Individual Career and Academic Plan (ICAP), which students develop with their counselor or school leader. For more information, please reach out to your high school’s counseling staff.
Thank you to the student panel participants: