Matt Moniz Gets a Top Education In & Out of the Classroom

Matt writes his language arts paper at 18,500’ while at Cho Oyu base camp, with a laptop powered by a solar-powered recharger.

[PART TWO] Matt Moniz, mountain climber and Boulder High School student, finished his sophomore year on time, and summited two of the world’s highest mountains— Cho Oyu and Makalu.

When asked how he did it, Matt and his Dad, Mike Moniz—an accomplished climber who has summited four of the Seven Summits including Everest in 2012—gave credit to careful planning, Colorado’s concurrent enrollment program, and the support of dedicated Boulder High staff.

Matt Moniz ascends  Cho Oyu’s Yellow Band at 25,100 ft., Spring 2014.

Matt Moniz ascends Cho Oyu’s Yellow Band at 25,100 ft., Spring 2014.

Go out and do big things

Colorado’s concurrent enrollment program—where semester-long college courses at public Colorado universities can be taken to fulfill high school requirements— gave Matt the flexibility to stay on track to graduate in 2016, yet maintain his high school experience, according to Mike and Matt.

“A supportive BHS administration and teachers who were willing to work through the logistics and complexities made it possible for Matt to go out and do big things and have a high school experience. That is important to both of us,” Mike said.

“The teachers at Boulder High believe, like we do, that education doesn’t only happen in the classroom.”

The environment as a classroom

Matt visits the leading eye transparent clinic in Nepal and observed the making of replacement lenses and a corneal transplant.

Matt visits the leading eye transparent clinic in Nepal and observed the making of replacement lenses and a corneal transplant.

Mike and Matt make the most of using the environment as a classroom. Learning  beyond the classroom included:

  • Interacting with the next expedition team
  • Practicing Spanish with the Argentinian team, and
  • Observing a corneal transplant while in Nepal

Matt also participated in a Department of Defense study on the effects of the drug, Dexamethasone, and the natural supplement, Q-Force, on high altitude performance. Dexamethasone, a steroid, reduces pressure on the brain and can help relieve high altitude headaches and scarring that can occur at high altitude. Q-Force contains the flavonoid quercetin, which boosts immune system performance, cognitive function and inflammation—all key physiological factors at high altitude.

Mike pointed out, “It’s important to note that Matt only took part in this study at lower altitude camps, not on summit pushes.”

Using DANA (Defense Automated Neurobehavioral Assessment), a mobile device designed to test cognitive function and psychological readiness, Matt took tests so researchers could evaluate the effects of the substances.

Everest is Everest

During junior year this spring, Matt plans to climb Everest and sister mountain, Lhotse with a possible first ski descent of the Lhotse Couloir. For a third peak, he is considering with either Shishapangma (Tibet) or Manaslu (Nepal).

Matt Moniz approaches the summit of Makalu at 27,250 feet during Boulder High School's spring semester 2014. Photos courtesy of Matt and Mike Moniz ©2014 All rights reserved.

Matt Moniz approaches the summit of Makalu at 27,250 feet during Boulder High School’s spring semester 2014.

Though last spring’s Makalu climb is considered by many to be more difficult than Everest, to Matt, Everest is still Everest—the highest mountain in the world.

This legendary peak was in the father-son team’s Triple 8 expedition plan of last spring. But, when the worst avalanche in Everest’s history resulted in the tragic death of 13 climbing Sherpas, respect for the Sherpas’ wishes to close the mountain resulted in a change of plans—leading them to the Cho Oyu and Makalu summits.

Intensive studies make it possible

Like last year, Matt is preparing for his educational journey as carefully as the trek. To stay on track, he took one CU class this past summer, and this semester is taking four more, including General Chemistry, along with a high school class.

Next semester will include three intensive 10-week classes at CU, which will enable him to complete coursework before going on expedition. Matt will also continue his research work with the University of Colorado Altitude Research Center and the Department of Defense in an expanded high altitude human performance study.

What does Matt think?

“I have a lot of friends in high school, so it’s really good to have the high school experience, but also have the flexibility to be able to go on expeditions. I really like concurrent enrollment program. It’s fun, and you get college experience and find out how college classes will go. I would recommend it, but they are a lot of work.”

As for his senior high school year, Matt’s not sure yet.

“I feel like I want to stay closer to home my senior year, and be here to participate in graduation.”

“But,” he added with a slight laugh, “you never know.”

Read PART ONE: Scaling School from On Top of the World (nearly)

Photos courtesy of Matt and Mike Moniz. ©2014 All rights reserved.

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