Early graduation at Summit High School is not something taken lightly. It requires foresight, planning and a lot of hard work. However, this did not keep Diane Mastin, Leila Spilman and five of their classmates from achieving their goals.
"Summit has a rigorous program in place for kids, but certainly kids who are motivated, organized and are focused on what they'd like to do can plan ahead and can graduate early," said Drew Adkins, Summit High School principal.
For Diane Mastin, graduating early is all about the academics and getting ready for her continuing education.
"I've been thinking about it for a while," she said. "I think it would be a good foot in the door for college."
Mastin, who has already been taking college-level courses, plans to attend several classes at Colorado Mountain College this spring, and possibly hold down a job as well. Her plan is to get prerequisites out of the way so that she can focus on higher-level classes once she enters university.
"It's a good way to gear myself into those higher-level classes that I'll be taking," Mastin said.
She has applied and been accepted to Colorado Mesa University and Montana State University and plans to pursue a degree in environmental science.
"I'm a very science-oriented person. It's just a subject that really makes sense to me," she said. "I enjoy it too, so, you've got to enjoy what you're doing. ... If I could combine what I'm smart with and what I like to do, it seems like a good option."
Mastin is an avid outdoor enthusiast and enjoys snowboarding, snowshoeing, hiking and similar activities. At the high school she's been involved in basketball, track and rugby. If she attends Colorado Mesa University she plans to join the rugby team and play at the collegiate level.
Looking back over her high school experience, Mastin said she enjoyed the challenge of difficult classes mixed with the stimulation of art and catering classes.
"I really try to push myself and take some of the harder classes," she said. "I like that they offer those and they still have a pretty wide range of the fun classes too."
Mastin doesn't feel she's missing anything by graduating early. She plans to keep busy with college courses and she can still attend Prom and will walk with her classmates at the graduation ceremony in the spring. There's a lot she's looking forward to.
"I think it's taking a step in the direction that's going to lead me to a bigger place," she said. "I'm excited for college, definitely, and I'm excited to do more. I'm just excited to start going."
Life recently took an unexpected turn for Leila Spilman last year when she signed on with modeling agency Wilhelmina and participated in Aspen Fashion Week. Things started happening quickly and this July she attended an event in New York where she was scouted and picked up by multiple international agencies.
Suddenly, Spilman found her career taking off, but she still had her senior year in high school to go. Early graduation was her best chance.
"I'm so lucky that it's happening. I've been lucky enough to get started so quickly," she said of her career. "(I knew) if I really want to do this, it's going to be worth my time to graduate early."
Fortunately for Spilman, the teachers and counselors at Summit High were willing to accommodate her.
"It hasn't been easy, but it's been possible," said Spilman, who knows other young models that have put off their own high school graduation for years. "It's been really, really great to have everyone behind me with it."
Modeling has already taken Spilman to the fashion centers of the United States: New York, Miami and Los Angeles. This January she will take the next step and travel to Europe to begin modeling internationally. Her first stop will be Istanbul, with many countries to follow.
"It's been getting more and more intense this past year," she said. "Every day you l earn something new. It's crazy. Your perspective changes every day."
Modeling is not an easy job and neither is learning it on the go, but Spilman has had help and support.
"Emotionally and mentally you have to have that good mindset, which is also difficult, but having the support and everything in the high school makes it that much easier."
As for working to graduate early, she said, "You can't do it without your counselors and teachers. They have to be on the ride with you. We made it happen - it worked out somehow. I worked my butt off!"
Spilman was also active in rugby and skiing at the school and testifies that sports were what kept her in top physical shape. She hopes to find some time in her international travels to explore and maybe shred some foreign powder.
As exciting as international travel will be, Spilman hopes to return to Breckenridge in the future. Leaving, she said, is "bittersweet" and she is looking forward to the time when she can reunite with her high school classmates.
"I can't wait to see everyone from school in a couple years," she said. "I can't wait to see where graduated life takes everyone."
But that's for the future. For now, her eyes are on the present.
"Change is so cool," she said with a smile. "I couldn't be more excited."