As Gorham High School’s Extended Learning Opportunity (ELO) Instructor, Grace Olsen works “to provide meaningful career aligned opportunities to high school students.” Working alongside Eliza Kenigsberg, the school’s Career Aspirations & ELO Coordinator, Olsen helps connect students to business mentors and subsequent internship, job shadow, and volunteer work experiences.
Olsen says the best part of her day is working with her students. “Watching a student flourish in their ELO placement is rewarding and motivates me to help connect with more students,” said Olsen.
Last school year, 50 Gorham students participated in an ELO. However, students at the school who did not directly pursue an ELO were still able to take part in career exploration activities such as the program’s Career X events which involved over 45 guest speakers of various career paths and occupations. As Gorham’s ELO program continues to expand, Olsen is hopeful they will be able to double the number of students in the program in the current school year while also offering plenty of school-wide career exploration events.
One of the program’s goals is to help students who were interested in vocational school but were unable to attend. One student was interested in pursuing a veterinary career and thus looked into a medical occupation vocational program. Upon deciding the program was not a good fit for her, the student and Olsen were able to work together to connect her with a meaningful ELO placement as an intern at the Maine Veterinary Medical Center. As one of many ELO success stories, Olsen’s student shared that this experience made her much more confident about her career path and life after high school.
Olsen has helped students connect with mentors and experiences in a wide variety of fields from engineering to real estate to education and more. She has helped connect students who are interested in a career in education to teacher mentors at local elementary and middle schools, allowing them to gain real work experience in a classroom. “I’m excited to see where life takes these students,” says Olsen. “It’s wonderful to witness young people be interested in education, especially when we continue to need wonderful educators in our schools and communities!”
Looking ahead, Olsen is excited about the expansion of Gorham’s ELO program and looks forward to helping more students as they explore and work toward their future careers.
Olsen would like to extend a thank you to the following organizations for their contributions to Gorham’s ELO program: Moody’s Auto Collision, Rarebreed Veterinary Partners, Jøtul, Great Falls Construction, Harvey Performance, MK Kitchen, IDEXX, Sappi Paper, Maplewood Dental Arts, Erin Flett, Furnishing Hope, Presumpscot Regional Land Trust, Gorham House, Maine Health, Casco Bay Electric, Baxter Memorial Library, and Carter’s Auto Service.
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 email@example.com.