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UTAH TEENS GET JUMP ON COLLEGE

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One hundred Utah teens have taken advantage of a new state scholarship Gov. Mike Leavitt proposed to help them get an early start on college.

The Centennial Scholarship pays up to $1,000 in college tuition for students who graduate from high school before the end of their senior year.About half of those students are coming from rural school districts and are taking courses at the state's two-year community colleges.

While there is no demographic profile of students who are graduating early, principals and counselors say it is usually not the students with the 4.0 grade-point averages or those heavily involved in extracurricular activities.

"It fits well for certain individuals, but for the majority it does not," said Dennis Crane, principal at Monticello High School.

Students who complete their graduation requirements by the end of their junior year get the full $1,000 to use at an accredited state college or university, said Linda Alder, who oversees the program for the State Office of Education. Those graduating during their senior year get less than $1,000.

About 40 percent of the students have earned the full amount, Alder said.

One student, Alexander L. Quilter, 17, of Bountiful, said the program has offered a more challenging education.

At the end of his junior year, Quilter figured he had two choices - either spend his senior year at Woods Cross High taking classes he really did not need or graduate early and go on to college.

"There was nothing left to take," he said. "If I had stayed, I would have been bored to death."

So with the $1,000 scholarship, Quilter enrolled at the University of Utah where he took writing, calculus and chemistry. He hasn't received his first report card, but Quilter said he is expecting A's and B's.

Information from the state shows that Provo and Alpine school districts had the most participants take advantage of the scholarship with 14 and 11, respectively. Ten scholarships have come for the rural San Juan School District.

In all, the state has paid $66,311 in college tuition. General education dollars that normally flow to school districts are used to cover the scholarship.