Apr 15, 2014 8:03 PM by Joanna Wise
Noah Dome sits in front a black, triple-monitor, custom built, gaming computer. His index finger repeatedly pecks at the keyboard, faster and faster. His eyes stay fixated on the screen.
Tap. Tap. Tap.
"What's cool about this (game,) it's an MMORPG," said Dome.
It's shortly after 9:30 a.m. on a weekday. Dome is 17-years-old. Most teenagers his age are sitting in a classroom, tapping their pencils on a desk, staring at a dry-erase board. They're not playing The Elder Scrolls.
"You can expand it out as well as go into first person," he adds.
Dome isn't like most teenagers. Sure, he loves video games, hanging out with his friends and fly fishing. But he only goes to school twice a week, and it's not for high school classes. At 17, Dome will be walking across the stage as a high school and college graduate.
"I would go to the classes. I would come home, do a couple hours of homework, and I'm done. Now I have my Bachelor's degree," said Dome.
Imagine that- taking college level courses as a preteen. That's what he did. The reason why boils down to one factor a lot of families stress about-the skyrocketing cost of a college education.
"I have no money," said Dome. "My family really doesn't have all that much money and so this program was just great. I'm able to do things that I never would have been able to do before."
He's talking about Colorado Springs Early Colleges. It's a charter school that allows high school students to take college courses, tuition free. The school doesn't have a standard grade-level tier. Before students enter their first year at CSEC, they take a placement test.
"We meet them right where they're at academically, and that means they can either test college ready and start taking college classes right out of middle school," said Head of CSEC Jason Dilger.
Dome will be the second student from the program to graduate with a Bachelor's degree.
Dilger said the program's mission is to give every student a change to go to college, whether they can afford it or not. Funded by taxpayer money, he believes it's putting the community's dollars to good use.
CSEC has multiple campuses across Colorado Springs. The main campus, at Colorado Technical University hosts students taking high school and college courses. Students who are solely gaining college credit can attend classes at The University of Colorado Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak Community College.
Dilger says the program's enrollment is growing steadily. In 2007, when CSEC opened its doors, 350 students enrolled. That number has nearly doubled to 610.
Now, CSEC will be expanding its CTU campus to accommodate more students.
While growing nationwide, early college enrollment is beginning to trend in Colorado Springs. CSEC is not the only program that offers tuition free college courses for high school students. This past fall, Colorado Springs school district 11 kicked off its Early College High School program.
As for Noah Dome, he says he "lives life with no regrets."
Wise words from a 17-year-old who still has a whole life ahead of him.
"Eventually, I'd like to get a job and make a difference in the world, but I said I can do so much more than just high school. Why not go for it?"
For more information on CSEC: Click here
For more information on D-11 ECHS: Click here