“It is my job to connect UMPI students with community-based career exploration and paid work experiences outside the classroom,” says Sarah Bushey of her work as the Extended Learning Opportunities (ELO) Coordinator at the University of Maine at Presque Isle (UMPI). Bushey helps UMPI students find mentorships and opportunities at local businesses and organizations. She also works closely with Valerie Waldemarson, JMG Master Specialist at Caribou High School and Allison Reed, Director of Guidance, Presque Isle High School to bring similar, credit-earning opportunities to younger students.
Bushey says the most rewarding part of her role is seeing the relationships grow between students and their mentors. “Students gain so much confidence from working with a professional in their field,” said Bushey, “and mentors learn new things from students and often discover that students exceed their expectations in terms of expertise and work ethic.” Working closely with a mentor gives these students valuable guidance as they make important decisions regarding their academic and professional careers.
One of Bushey’s students at UMPI recently graduated and accepted a position at a financial services firm after completing an ELO in the same field. Through his ELO experience with Ameriprise Financial LLC, this student gained hands-on experience in marketing and business communications and was able to network in the industry. When reflecting on this experience, the student said, “I am glad I did the ELO as I feel that I gained a lot out of it that helped me understand what to expect and what I am looking for in a future job position.”
Looking to the future, Bushey plans to continue working with Presque Isle and Caribou high schools to bring ELO experiences to their students. She also plans on collaborating with UMPI’s JMG Success Specialist and Internship Coordinator. One of her main goals as UMPI’s ELO Coordinator is to have ELOs embedded into the college’s course curriculum in the future, which they are piloting this semester with their first-year education class, EDU 152.
Bushey would like to thank the following organizations for their contributions to UMPI, Presque Isle high school and Caribou high school’s ELO programs: Ameriprise Financial LLC, Northern Light A.R. Gould Hospital, Northeast Paving LLC, Barresi Financial, Paradox Graphic Design, Zippel Elementary School, F&B Couture, Eastern Maine Medical Center, Dead River Company, Sullivan’s Flooring Company, Hannaford, Versant Power, S.W. Collins, Pines Health Services, Cary Medical Center, County Physical Therapy, Burger Boy, Solman & Hunter, Scott Martin Farm, County Ag & Turf Supply, Evergreen Lanes, Caribou Police Department, Caribou Recreational Department, Caribou Fire and Ambulance Department, Caribou Nursing Home, Northern Maine Dental, Par & Grill Restaurant, Frontier Pharmacy, Shear Precision, Rejuvenate Health & Medical Spa, Thrive Body Spa, Ruska Coffee Company, Miss Jordyn’s Childcare and Preschool, Hack & Gouge Welding, Hope and Justice Project, Caribou Eye Care, Northern Maine Medical Center, Phoenix Direct Care, Rockwell & Quilan, Second Chances Thrifts & Boutique, Halfway Home Pet Rescue, and East of Eden Horse Stables.
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.