ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) - Its students say it's a no-brainer. Yet, for many, combining college and high school can be a tough sell. Now, representatives at one Albuquerque public school says they'll be able to give more teens a head-start on life, thanks to an upcoming expansion.
"I'm gonna choke up. Oh, my God."
It's hard to imagine many teens gush this way about high school.
"I love this school, so much," said student Krislyn Martin.
She says hers started a whole new chapter for her family.
"Most people in my family haven't gone to college," said Martin.
Martin is already taking college classes. She says she didn't mean to enroll at College and Career High School, but when she showed up, on the first day.
"I'm like, 'I am staying. I don't want to leave," said Martin.
For most students, enrolling is no accident, but the sentiment is the same.
Most students who attend high school in this discreet setting on CNM's Campus, will earn at least one degree or certificate by the time they graduate.
"That's powerful," said College and Career High Dean Karen Krall.
The combination of high school and college classes makes this more like a mini-college than your traditional high school, with students coming and going, setting their own schedules and learning in a more mature environment.
"They really like that and they step up to the plate. Now, there's some stumbling that happens along the way but, for the most part, they get it after a semester or two, and they soar," said College and Career High Counselor, Yesenia Beltran. "They're exploring their opportunities, earlier."
The draw of more freedom and independence have, in part, led more local teens to choose the unorthodox high school.
In May 2019, it will expand, allowing the school to open enrollment to freshmen.
Yet, its "outside-the-box" approach can also be intimidating. The work is demanding and students' vacation schedule is very different than other APS peers.
"I think there is a learning curve when kids first get here," said Krall.
Krall says the current 10th through 12th set-up may also make it tough for students to take a leap.
"Say, 'hey, I think I'll start a new school,' is just sort of hard for them," Krall explained.
Four years after it's founding, administrators are confident they'll meet their enrollment goal this year, especially with students recruiting.
"I've told all my other friends, 'come here!'" said Martin. "They don't know what they're missing, honestly."
The school recently received straight A's in all eight areas of the state's evaluation system-- the only one in New Mexico.
Administrators say their students can save $42,000 on college costs.