Columbine becomes first Jeffco school to offer AP capstone diploma

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By Deborah Swearingen

Next year, Columbine High School will be the first Jeffco Public School to offer the advanced placement capstone diploma program.

The high school was approved for the program in December after a lengthy application process. With the AP capstone program, Columbine will add two courses to its current AP class offers. Those classes — AP seminar and AP research — focus on building the skills and in-depth knowledge that students need in preparation for college, according to Shannon Vigil, vice principal at Columbine.

“We really have a strong AP program, and we think this just makes us one of the most rigorous academic schools in the state,” she said.

“ … It’s great for our students. It’s great for our community,” principal Scott Christy added.

To graduate with the AP capstone diploma, students must pass the AP seminar and research courses, as well as four other AP courses of their choosing. Students pass with a grade of three or higher.

The diploma provides a new distinction for students going through the college admissions process, and it’s a chance for them to enter college with more college credit, ultimately providing a financial savings for students and their families.

Columbine administration sees the program as a win-win for students, particularly because there is no real disadvantage to participation. Students who don’t pass the exams will not graduate with the diploma but are still generally better prepared for college, Vigil said.

“There’s no drawbacks,” she said. ‘There’s only benefits to students for challenging themselves.”

Whereas the International Baccalaureate program requires students to take specific courses, the AP capstone program provides students with options and the choice in directing the rigor of their studies. Students who prefer math and science can take courses such as AP calculus or physics, while students who enjoy liberal arts can select AP history or English.

“It gives a lot more student choice,” Vigil said. “ … Columbine has always believed in being a comprehensive high school.

“We want our kids to be athletes, to be academically rigorous, to be involved in the arts, to be engaged in our community and community service. This program allows kids to do all of those things.”

The AP Capstone Diploma program will be offered at Columbine beginning in the fall. Students can opt into the program as late as their junior year.

Contact reporter Deborah Swearingen at dswearingen@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1042. Follow her on Twitter @djswearingen.