When seven students from Vision Charter School in Caldwell walk across the stage to get their high school diplomas in May, they’ll already have college degrees.
Six seniors and a junior will receive associate degrees from the College of Western Idaho (CWI) in May.
“It was a sacrifice I was willing to make,” said senior Mitchell Dial. “My priorities changed when I started taking college classes.”
Dial has balanced school activities, sports, friends and homework since freshman year.
“I wanted to be the kid with the big social life, but I decided to be the kid to graduate with a degree,” Dial said. “When you realize what is important at a young age, it becomes worth it.”
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Dial is able to earn a liberal arts associate degree through Idaho’s Advanced Opportunities programs, a combination of online, dual-credit and CWI college classes. Advanced Opportunities involves four programs which the state reimburses all or part of the costs to help students graduate early or with college credits.
The state spent $3.5 million on subsidies and support for the programs last year with 29 percent of the eligible students taking advantage of them. At Vision Charter School, the state spent $15,746 last year.
This spring, high school students will earn 4,000 college credits from CWI. In 2014, 68.4 percent of high school graduates were enrolled in a college or university, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics study.
“We know that students in high school who earn college credits have a much higher ‘Go On’ rate,” said Stephen Crumrine, the director of dual credit programs at CWI.
Dial’s brother, Jackson, a 16-year-old junior, will graduate from high school and earn an associate’s degree in May. He took his first college course at age 14.
“I lost a couple of friends because they wanted to hang out and play video games and I had to do homework,” Jackson said. “It was all worth it though.”
Senior Alexandria Kearsley explains her high school experience as not normal.
“While I have enjoyed high school it has been very hard for me, but good in the same sense,” Kearsley said. “I love taking college classes, but at the same time I sometimes wish I didn’t do it. I would have been able to hang out with my friends every weekend.”
Despite the extra hours the college classes require, the seven students who will be gradating from CWI are involved in extra-curricular activities. Senior Hannah Martinez Samuelson participates in robotics club, the swim team and musical theatre.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had a time when I felt that I wasn’t going to have a social life or hang out with my friends,” said Martinez Samuelson. “I have never felt overwhelmed.”
Senior Samantha Snow said her experience at Vision made adjusting from high school to college easy.
“It wasn’t a massive change, the only difference is the environment when it comes to high school and taking college classes,” Snow said. “The academics and course load was not a large challenge for me, it was learning how things are instructed, taught and presented to you.”