Summit County students get a dose of what college is all about |

Summit County students get a dose of what college is all about

Summit Daily/Mark Fox

BRECKENRIDGE – Fourteen-year-old Garrett Giles of Silverthorne hasn’t yet taken his first high school class, but he seemed right at home Tuesday afternoon during a lesson in aquatic biology at Colorado Mountain College’s Breckenridge campus.

With the help of Ph.D. biologist and CMC instructor Bill Painter, Garrett gathered a water sample from the nearby Blue River and assessed its level of dissolved oxygen – an indicator of how inviting the waters are to fish, aquatic insects and other critters.

Garrett’s field investigations were part of a week-long series of classes at CMC for 25 incoming ninth- and 10th-graders in Summit School District’s Pre-Collegiate Program. The program provides academic and financial support to middle school and high school students who would be the first in their families to graduate from college. Students apply to participate in the optional program and have access to community mentors, college counseling, academic help and life-skills coaching.

“They want to go on to college, and they would like to have more resources and more support in their quest,” said program coordinator Molly Griffith. “We start as young as seventh grade, so they get into their minds that they will be going to college, and it’s not a last-minute decision.”

Griffith is enthused by the early success of the program, still in its first year. Officials had hoped to recruit about 40 pre-collegiate students to participate, but they now have close to 90 involved. Nine of them were seniors who graduated last month with plans for post-secondary education.

This free week at CMC is designed to give younger students exposure to the college campus and faculty and to demystify the college experience. The material focuses on math, science and study skills. Highlights include the aquatic biology session, team-building exercises in the school’s new culinary arts facility, outdoor survival skills, nutrition, test-taking strategies and exercise physiology. Even CMC’s Summit Campus CEO Alton Scales dropped in to teach a section on study skills.

The quest for college was firmly in Garrett’s mind as he contemplated the impacts of water quality on wildlife Tuesday.

“I have high goals,” he said. “I want to go to Dartmouth, and that’s an Ivy League school. I thought my best chance was to get involved in the Pre-Collegiate Program.”

Garrett, who would be the first in his family to receive a four-year degree, didn’t mind hitting the books during his summer vacation.

“It’s been really fun. I have had so much fun learning things with my friends, and I’ve done things I couldn’t have possibly imagined,” he said.

SDN reporter Julie Sutor can be reached at (970) 668-4630 or

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