“Our main goal of this project is exposure and exploration,” says Extended Learning Opportunities (ELO) Coordinator Andrew Burnell. Burnell co-leads the ELO program at Biddeford High School’s Alternate Pathways Center (APC) alongside Tabatha Frawkins. Burnell and Frawkins work as a team to provide students with various career exploration opportunities including site visits, guest speeches, and the school’s ELO course. “We are a team and successful because we are such a cohesive team!” says Burnell of his work leading the program with Frawkins.
During the ELO course, students learn about five potential tracks including directly entering the workforce, military, college, trades, and service or travel opportunities. They are also taught important elements of “adulting” such as budgeting, doing taxes, and writing resumes and cover letters.
Students in the ELO program have gained volunteer experience by assisting in classrooms at Biddeford Primary School, Biddeford Intermediate School, and the John F. Kennedy Kindergarten Center. Some students have also been able to develop their leadership skills through a weekly leadership program where they work on communication, empathy, self-reflection, determination, and problem-solving.
Burnell says the best part of his day working as an ELO Coordinator is connecting with students. “Shifting students’ stories about themselves from negative to more positive, learning about students’ strengths and what their goals are, and being part of a community that believes in our students are all highlights of our days and work at APC,” said Burnell.
Co-led by Burnell and Frawkins, APC’s ELO program is helping students build strong and meaningful connections while exploring career paths and writing a positive story for themselves. Burnell says, “the ELO program is only strengthening our students’ [stories] and providing them opportunities they may not have otherwise experienced.”
Extended Learning Opportunities (ELOs) are hands-on, credit-bearing courses outside of the traditional classroom with an emphasis on community-based career exploration. These opportunities are personalized for students and help them explore options for their professional lives. They help students engage in learning through instruction, assignments, and experiential learning. The Maine Department of Education (DOE), along with state-wide partner Jobs for Maine Graduates (JMG), have made a concerted effort to provide working models, support, and funding opportunities for Maine schools to set up ELO programs within their school communities. To learn more about Maine’s initiatives with extended learning opportunities, visit: https://www.maine.gov/doe/index.php/learning/elo or reach out to Maine DOE ELO Coordinator Rick Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.