Portland High School Partner Spotlight: Tyler Karu

Submitted by Andrea Levinsky, Extended Learning Opportunities Coordinator, Portland High School. Each month we will feature a community partner. We are excited to open this series with Tyler Karu!

Tyler Karu of Tyler Karu Design and Interiors has been an incredible partner of Portland High’s Extended Learning Opportunities since November of 2016. She has participated in every possible opportunity including hosting students for job shadow day and internships in addition to serving on career panels and doing mock interviews for 9th graders.

Tyler was inspired to start working with Portland High because she wanted to set an example of a strong woman in business. She says, “I wanted to be example of someone who can make a mark in my own little community…[I wanted to show that] women have a seat at the table and can do anything we want.” 

She has continued to work with Portland High School over the years because she is inspired by the students. She finds that the student body is interested and engaged. She says, “There aren’t a lot of high schools that prepare students for real life. I think Portland High just does such a good job with that and it makes kids more interested in job and professional life and learning about careers and future directions. I think Portland High is preparing the students for life skills.”

To other businesses that want to get involved, she says that, “It is our responsibility as business owners and professional people to reach back out into the community and offer help and support. What better group to reach out to than high schoolers who are thinking about the next step in their lives?”

Through Extended Learning Opportunities, Tyler is able to “make a difference on a fundamental and pragmatic level,” she says. “there’s nothing more valuable.”

Business partners make a profound impact in students as well. In her internship with Tyler, Gloria Sanchez was able to solidify her passion for her chosen career path of interior design. She gained experience in creating designs and working with clients. Gloria was even hired by the company for a summer job following her internship!

We are so grateful for Tyler’s continued partnership and her leadership in supporting our students. If you are interested in getting involved with Portland High School’s Extended Learning Opportunities program through job shadows, mock interviews, internships, or career panels. Please contact Andrea Levinsky, Extended Learning Opportunities Coordinator at levina@portlandschools.org

PRIORITY NOTICE: Live Broadcast Link Available for Public Hearing on Proposed Revisions to Rule Chapter 132 (Career and Education Development, English Language Arts, and Mathematics Standards) on November 13, 2019

As a reminder, the Maine Department of Education has scheduled a public hearing on November 13th, 2019 as part of the scheduled periodic review of the Maine Learning Results. The Department is seeking public comments regarding the proposed revisions to Rule Chapter 132, revised career and education development, English language arts, and mathematics standards until 5 pm on November 27th, 2019.

The public hearing will take place in room 103A of the Burton Cross Building in Augusta from 1-4 pm. Anyone present may speak at the public hearing. People that wish to speak will be asked to sign in and, preferably, provide two written copies of comments, as well as an electronic copy. The live broadcast is for viewing the hearing only. You will not be able to provide public comment via the live broadcast.

Anyone unable to attend the public hearing may send written comments by 5 pm on November 27th, 2019. Written comments may be emailed to sis.doe@maine.gov with the subject “Career and Education Development Standards Review,” or “English Language Arts Standards Review,” or “Mathematics Standards Review” or mailed to Maine Department of Education, attn: Beth Lambert, 23 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333.

Below is a list of relevant links, as well as the hearing information including a link for the live broadcast:

For further information about the standards review process contact Beth Lambert at Beth.Lambert@maine.gov.

Maine Students Join Nearly 70,000 FFA Members in Indianapolis

Maine school representatives and student State Officers participated in the 92nd National FFA (formerly known as “Future Farmers of America”) Convention on October 30-November 2, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Twelve FFA students from Ashland High School, Easton High School, and Presque Isle Regional Career & Technical Center competed in events including Dairy Cattle Evaluation, Employment Skills, Environment & Natural Resources, and Horse Evaluation. 

State FFA Officers Graham Berry (President), Camryn Curtis (Vice President) and Ava Cameron (Secretary-Treasurer) participated alongside their fellow Maine competitors, teachers and chaperones, with Graham and Camryn serving as delegates to committees on Competitions and Member Experiences.  State FFA Advisor Doug Robertson from the Maine Department of Education oversaw student State FFA Officers and participated in educational sessions with fellow staff from other states.

Maine FFA State Secretary-Treasurer Ava Cameron presents the Maine Flag at the Opening Session.
Maine FFA State Secretary-Treasurer Ava Cameron presents the Maine Flag at the Opening Session.

FFA is the largest student leadership organization in the United States, with over 700,000 members grades 7-12 enrolled in courses related to agriculture and natural resources.  Of these members, nearly 70,000 attended the National Convention.  Maine’s delegates helped develop recommendations for changes to the National FFA to benefit members.

The National FFA Convention provided competitions, motivational sessions, leadership workshops, awards and scholarships for student members, as well as the chance to meet peers from all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  In addition to competitions and motivational sessions, Maine participants had the opportunity to discover Indianapolis and many local attractions including the Indiana State Museum, the rodeo and the zoo, as well as enjoying a concert featuring Brett Young.

Maine FFA State Secretary-Treasurer Ava Cameron presents the Maine Flag at the Opening Session.
Maine FFA State Secretary-Treasurer Ava Cameron presents the Maine Flag at the Opening Session.

In Maine, secondary schools with technical programs in agriculture and natural resources as well as all schools for students grades 7-12 with relevant agriculture/natural resources courses, including science curriculum infused with agriculture and natural resource topics are eligible to charter FFA chapters.

For more information, please contact:  Doug Robertson, State Advisor, Maine Department of Education, (207) 624-6744, doug.robertson@maine.gov

New FFA Chapter Officers Trained for School Year

Photo: FFA Officers rise to the challenge of putting creative leadership into practice.  Lane McCrum (right), grade 9, Mars Hill, models unusual headgear intended to promote recycling, with Mars Hill senior Brayden Bradbury on left.

State Officers of the Maine FFA Association (formerly known as “Future Farmers of America”) trained 35 leaders from 7 Aroostook County FFA Chapters on October 18, 2019 at the University of Maine, Presque Isle.

The one-day training, developed by State FFA Officers Graham Berry (President), Camryn Curtis (Vice President), and Ava Cameron (Secretary-Treasurer), with guidance from Maine Department of Education State FFA Advisor, Doug Robertson, was devoted to topics of FFA opportunities, Communication Strategies, and Exemplary Leadership.  FFA student participants came from chapters including Presque Isle Regional Career & Technical Center, Ashland High School, Ashland Middle School, Easton High School, Hodgdon High School, Mars Hill High School, and Washburn High School.

Students race to identify different methods of communicating in order to improve their own FFA chapter member communication.
Students race to identify different methods of communicating in order to improve their own FFA chapter member communication.

The purpose of the workshop was to prepare participants to become successful leaders of their own local chapters.  FFA chapters are involved in a variety of activities to provide recognition and enhanced skills to students grades 7-12 enrolled in courses related to agriculture and natural resources. FFA chapters are often very active as well in their local communities in projects ranging from addressing hunger issues to helping elementary students learn more about Maine agriculture. Chapter FFA Officers left the training with many ideas of organizational strategies to undertake at their schools, as well as a number of specific community projects to implement. 

: FFA leaders participate in an activity emphasizing the importance of high quality communication.
FFA leaders participate in an activity emphasizing the importance of high quality communication.

Maine schools with students grades 7-12 enrolled in courses related to agriculture and natural resources, including those with science curricula connected to learning strategies such as school gardens and greenhouses, are eligible for FFA chapter membership—along with associated opportunities related to trainings, competitions, recognition and scholarships—and may address any questions to:  Doug Robertson, Maine FFA State Advisor, (207) 624-6744, doug.robertson@maine.gov

Gorham/Westbrook CTE Adult Ed Collaboration Brings New Opportunities to the Community

Pictured L to R: Adult Ed/CTE Coordinator Jeremy Kendall, WRVC Director Todd Fields, Assistant Superintendent Jodi Mezzanotte, Adult Ed Director Shelli Pride, and Administrative Assistant Elsbeth Bennett.

Westbrook School Department had a collective dream to one day have a robust Adult Education Program that not only helped New Mainers integrate into the community but also met the needs of adult learners in their community and the state as a whole. Three years ago, Gorham and Westbrook Adult Education programs applied for the Fund for the Efficient Delivery of Educational Services (FEDES) grant opportunity, one of three grant opportunities offered by the Maine DOE between 2017 and 2018 to provide districts with initial funding for local and regional initiatives to improve educational opportunities. In January 2018, Westbrook and their partner Gorham School District was awarded a grant to support the creation of the Gorham/Westbrook Career and Technical Education (CTE) Program, a regional adult education program that provides adult learners access to career and technical education that will prepare them for high-skill, high-demand occupations with defined pathways for advancement.

Jeremy Kendall Adult Education CTE Coordinator
Jeremy Kendall Adult Education CTE Coordinator

Building on the strong foundation of their neighbors in Gorham, Westbrook began creating career driven educational programs for adult learners. In addition to adding Jeremy Kendall to their team, as the Adult Education CTE Coordinator, they began expanding the Adult/CTE programs starting with the difficult task of building a Commercial Driving License (CDL) course, an area where the nation, including Maine, has seen a sharp shortage of workers in a very high demand occupation.

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WRVC Director Todd Fields and Jeremy Kendall standing next to one of their CDL Driving Trucks.

Finding that there were only two driving instructors in the entire state of Maine, Jeremy was lucky enough to convince one of them, Buddy Spaulding who runs a driving school in Albion Maine, to come to Westbrook and teach a course that later successfully graduated 8 students. With Westbrook’s CDL course under their belt, these 8 students are suited to take a State exam and become instructors themselves. One year later the CDL program has shown enormous success and Jeremy was happy to share that they are in the process of hiring 3 additional instructors, expanding the program to even more learners.

Students sitting in a classroom with instructor writing on white board
CDL Driving course in session.

In addition to CDL, the CTE/Adult Ed program also offers a robust Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) program and are gearing up for an expansion that will offer an automotive program, CompTIA (Information Technology skills), in addition to electrician training, building trade carpentry, and Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certifications.

Building on the foundation that seeks to bring new opportunities to all learners, Westbrook also integrates a language acquisition component of the CTE/Adult Ed program that focuses on New Mainers who are in the process of learning English and culture in their new home here in Maine. In conjunction with their growing trades programs, they are also building out their capacity to offer these same services, with an added language skills component, to New Mainers by working closely with partner agencies to help get them work-ready.

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 A WRVC CNA student demonstrates a typical bedside routine, going through the steps of making a mock patient comfortable.

To distinguish themselves as a full-service program, they also go the extra mile to ensure the success of each and every learner that walks through the doors of the Westbrook Regional Vocational Center/Adult Education Program. “If they need their HiSET/high school diploma, academic or workready skills, we will help them. We will assist them with their job-hunting pursuits as well.” said Westbrook Adult Education Director Shelli Pride. “We put them in trade programs and we help them find jobs,” added Shelli.

In order to track their success, Westbrook aims to maintain relationships with their students by keeping up with their progress both in education and their professional careers. They also work with an advisory board, which is made up of local businesses that help to develop the programs and make sure they are on track to make a positive difference in the community and the State.

At a recent convening of local businesses at the WRVC, a local driving company approached Jeremy. “We are looking for drivers, do you have anyone in mind?” A question to which he was delighted to respond, “Yes, we are running a CDL-B course right now and there is a really great kid on the driving range, do you want to meet him?” The company was able to do an on-the-spot interview and they offered him a job right then and there. The student was not only a high school graduate of the WRVC program but was also enrolled in the Adult Ed CDL course at the time.

The CTE/Adult Education program recently celebrated the graduation of all 13 CNA students who sat for their state exams, which was a 100% pass rate for our CNA program.

The CTE/Adult Education program was a recent recipient of a very generous donation from the Associated General Contractors of Maine. This money will be used to support a scholarship fund for future CTE/Adult Education students.

It is outcomes like these that help solidify the need for the recently developed collaboration, and the projected success it will bring to the community.

Grateful to have the collaboration of their partners in Gorham who have a readymade adult education program that Westbrook was able to ride the coat tails of, they now have a long-term goal of offering each career-focused program to all high school students and adult learners in the region. They hope to help fill Maine’s high demand occupations by continuing to expand the opportunities they offer. Down the road, they will be looking into starting programs in both business and diesel mechanics and from there, the possibilities are endless.

This article was written by Maine DOE Staff Rachel Paling in collaboration with school leaders at Westbrook Regional Vocational Center and Westbrook Adult Education program as part of the Maine Schools Sharing Success Campaign. For more information or to submit an idea or a write-up, email Rachel at rachel.paling@maine.gov.