Alternative College Choices


Davan Hazeloop (12) makes mac and cheese for a catering event for police officers in Colorado in her Career Start program. Photo provided by Davan Hazeloop.

College right after high school isn’t for everyone. Perhaps you want to take a gap year and work. Or maybe you finish all twenty five of your credits and want to graduate early. Even going straight into the workforce might sound appealing to you as well. The bottom line is, not every senior in high school dreams of going to a four year university right away. And it is because of this that Palmer Ridge has various programs and procedures to accommodate to every student’s desires.

One of the ways Palmer Ridge does this is through Career Start. This program does exactly what its name suggests, gives students a head start on the career paths they wish to pursue after high school. In accordance with Pikes Peak State College, Palmer Ridge’s Career Start program includes everything from veterinary medicine and culinary arts to zoo-keeping and cosmetics. On top of this, students can even gain college credit and further certificates or degrees.

In fact, Davan Hazeloop (12) has entered Career Start through the culinary program and is already only a couple of classes away from earning her Associates Degree. “I only have to take a science and math class once when I graduate, and then I’ll have an Associate’s Degree,” she said.

Hazeloop, having always loved to cook and bake, was thrilled to hear of the Career Start program’s culinary track. And, she was certainly not let down. “They teach you everything you need to know to be able to cook all of the different stuff they have in the kitchen,” she says. Hazeloop also gets professional, hands-on learning through working at Back East Grill’s kitchen.

Now, a typical school day for Hazeloop is probably unlike most other Palmer Ridge students. “I get to Palmer Ridge around 7:00 am, we get on the bus and leave [to Pikes Peak State College] by 7:30 am, and get there by 9:00 am. After this, we leave at 11:40am from there once we’re done with kitchen and classwork. Then, I go to my classes at Palmer Ridge and leave at 2:52pm,” she said.

Even though the Career Start program “does not require a ton of homework”, according to Hazeloop, it seemingly still requires a lot of time, effort, and hard work on top of other online or in-person classes, such as online German in Hazeloop’s case. After high school, Hazeloop hopes to continue pursuing her job as a line cook at Back East Grill and hopefully move to Providence, Rhode Island to attend Johnson and Wales University eventually.

Elliana Lucenti (12) is also another participant through the Career Start program at Palmer Ridge who has a slightly different experience than Hazeloop. “Right now, I am looking [at going] into the Navy where I can do cosmetology school,” she says. Lucenti completes her program at the International Salon and Spa Academy in Colorado Springs where she is currently preparing for state boards to get her cosmetology license by the end of high school. Like Hazeloop, Lucenti has also gotten pretty far in the cosmetology program. “As a second year in cosmetology…I have wanted to do cosmetics since I was three years old.”

As far as her military training goes, “We are just working out for boot camp,” she said. And with such a unique combination of job titles, Lucenti feels that the program is both “hard and easy.” She says, “It’s easier in the fact that you only have so many classes, but you also get to do something you love to do at the same time.”

“I would recommend the Career Start program because it is actually really fun and you build a community with the people.”

– Elliana Lucenti

Unlike Hazeloop, Lucenti’s cosmetology lasses do not start until 1:00 pm which means she is able to go into class early and get extra help or hang out with teachers and friends ahead of time. She is also able to take dance and ceramics classes along with her Career Start program as well.

Overall, Career Start is an efficient and unique way to specialize your own high school experience in order to get a headstart on a post-high school career. But, it is certainly not the only option seniors are considering. In fact, another popular choice this year is early graduation.

With thirty three students this year deciding to pursue early graduation, Mrs. Ashley Herebic, Palmer Ridge High School’s Registrar, says, “… a lot of students are finished with their credits, and they have jobs and just want to be working more to make money… [especially] for college.”

Mrs. Herebic also notes that the option of early graduation is usually quite appealing to students at Palmer Ridge, with the highest count being last year, during the 2021-2022 school year, with thirty six early graduates. From D1 athlete recruits wanting to start training in January, to students who want to start classes at Pikes Peak State College, the variety of early graduates is certainly not sparse.

According to Kenzie Fieber (12), “the process is actually really easy,” she said. “You just have to make sure you have enough credits…the requirement is twenty five credits to graduate. And then you go and see Mrs. Herebic at the front office and she has some lists that you have to check off..” Fieber even recommends this line of choice to most highschoolers with one exception…”It really depends on what you ’re doing because if you are going to a college that requires four years of math, english, [and] science then I wouldn’t unless you’re taking online classes,” she said.

Mrs. Herebic explains the process of early graduation more in depth saying, “ If the counselor gives them the green light, [the early graduate] comes to me and I give them paperwork and their parents approve it. They [also] have to meet with Mr. Purdy, the Assistant Principal, and talk to him about why they want to graduate early… Once they finish all their classes and make sure they pass and have gotten the twenty five credits, then they will be able to finish class in December. Their official transcript will have a December date on it, but they do not get their diploma until graduation itself in May,” she said.

You may be wondering…If I graduate early does that mean I will have to cut my senior year, and all of the fun activities, short? Well, the answer is yes and no. “They can’t come in the building, and there is no class. But, they are allowed to come to the dances, like prom, and of course we want them to come to graduation and…all of the senior events,” said Mrs. Herebic. Fieber even plans on attending a few senior events after the semester ends as long as her work schedule permits her to do so. She also plans on attending Utah State University next fall, but wants to work and save up some money before attending.

However, early graduation is yet another option for Palmer Ridge students to purse, if they feel they have met their requirements. But, it is certainly not the last one. Taking a gap year has been on the minds of many high school seniors as the school year progresses.

Esmerelda Pelayo Marin (12) wants to take a gap year especially to decide exactly what she wants to do. “I want to take a gap year because I want a year where I can travel and work as much as I can. I also want to be sure what I want to study,” she says. With goals on traveling abroad and across the United States, Marin wants to see the world and experience as much as possible before dedicating herself to a strict, college course load.

“I think whether or not high schoolers should take a break after school depends on the person, some people need that momentum to keep going.”

Esmerelda Pelayo Marin

From the enrolling in the Career Start program to get ahead on your own career path for after high school, to graduating early in order to save money for a college education, to even taking a gap year as a break from it all, there is something for everyone’s idea of post-high school life here, at Palmer Ridge.