Fighting Food Insecurity and Building Career Skills with Madison ELO Program

Joshua Bishop

After spending the school day teaching math and sustainable agriculture at Madison Area Memorial High School, Joshua Bishop works after hours to run the school’s Extended Learning Opportunities (ELO) program. The ELO program at Madison focuses primarily on agriculture with the goal of teaching students valuable work skills while also helping to fight food insecurity in Somerset County.

One of the program’s main projects is its ELO Summer Garden which consists of multiple gardens all built from the ground up. Bishop’s students have gained agricultural work experience by maintaining these gardens and have also given back to their community. The garden’s pumpkin patch provided over 70 pumpkins for the local elementary school. Bishop and his students are also creating Bulldog Salsa and Pickles from the garden. This project builds upon their agricultural knowledge while also incorporating marketing and business skills, as they are creating a full business model for these foods.

“We are teaching students how to be employable while also giving them the ability to help them and their families’ lives by teaching them how to grow their own food,” said Bishop.

Beyond group ELOs, such as the garden, the program also offers students individual opportunities where they can earn credits through the Jobs for Maine Graduates (JMG) virtual platform called LMS. This opportunity has allowed students who need extra credits in order to graduate on time to recover those credits in a meaningful way related to their career interests. Through LMS, one of Bishop’s students was able to earn credits in geography and sustainability to complete her graduation requirements on time and also gain experience doing research in those fields.

“I love making an impact on my students’ lives,” said Bishop. “Whether it be helping them with curriculum-based skills or building transferrable skills for the real world, I aim to make an impact for each and every student.”

Bishop would like to thank Kennebec Valley Farms and Kathy Bertini from the Maine Department of Education.

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: or reach out to Maine DOE ELO Coordinator Rick Wilson at