Youthentity column: Making the most of high school |

Youthentity column: Making the most of high school

Kirsten Petre McDaniel

For many high school students — especially juniors and seniors — the pressure is on. As the calendar marches steadily toward graduation, many students anxiously peer into the future as they strive to make the most out of their remaining high school days.

In anticipation of either going to college or immediately entering the workforce, students look to optimize their class schedules with classes that both fulfill graduation requirements and get them closer to achieving post-high school goals.

There are several ways students can get ahead while still in high school, including earning college credits while in high school, earning industry certifications, and gaining professional experience through internships.

Concurrent enrollment

Concurrent enrollment is a program that allows high school students to earn college credit toward a postsecondary diploma, certificate or college degree. Concurrent enrollment students are enrolled in the university while in high school and they receive transcripted credit from both the university and their high school.

Locally, Colorado Mountain College offers concurrent enrollment opportunities for high school students, with many classes taught online or even at area high schools. Students can also take advantage of concurrent enrollment through Youthentity’s Career Academy program, which embeds college courses in conjunction with Metropolitan State University, Colorado Mountain College and Western Colorado Community College into the experience, with tuition paid by Youthentity or the school district.

Industry Certifications

Industry certifications can also help students get ahead, particularly for those who plan to enter the workforce right after high school. High-demand trades jobs will favor individuals who have completed entry-level certifications, such as the pre-apprenticeship program offered by the Western Colorado Independent Electrical Contractors.

Students can also earn industry certifications through Youthentity’s Career Academy, which offers certifications such as NCCER Core, OSHA 10 Construction, IEC New Worker Certificate through its Construction class, and hospitality-related certifications including ServSafe FoodHandler, ServSafe Manager, and ProStart Certificate of Achievement through the Culinary Arts class.


Internships are often an indicator that a student is taking the initiative to get hands-on, real-world experience in preparation for future careers. While students may not be able to get class credits for an internship with a local business, they may be able to use the experience to finish a senior capstone project — and possibly make some money while learning about a potential career path.

When structured correctly, internships can be a fantastic and invaluable experience that looks great on any application or resume.

Studies have found a positive correlation between concurrent enrollment and short- and long-term student success, and students who participate in concurrent enrollment are more likely to earn degrees and to do so sooner than other students.

Across Colorado, only 3.4% of students graduate high school with college credit or a post-secondary certificate compared with 100% of Youthentity’s students. Concurrent enrollment also increases a student’s chances of completing post-secondary education while increasing their self-confidence in an authentic way.

At Youthentity, we have seen firsthand the value of early career development and experiences as our students plan for the future while building real-world transferrable skills. By taking advantage of these forward-looking opportunities, students gain momentum toward successful, stable futures.

Kirsten McDaniel is the Executive Director of Youthentity, a Carbondale-based nonprofit serving over 4,000 Colorado youth with financial literacy education and career exploration opportunities.

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