Mt. Ararat High School students will now have an opportunity to explore learning options outside classrooms.

Principal Chris Hoffman plans to start a Community Pathways program to help students connect with learning opportunities in communities, allowing them to explore potential career interests while also building academic skills.

“We want to develop relationships with community partners, businesses, and nonprofit organizations so that our students might be able to work with them while also growing their skills in other circumstances,” said Hoffman. “It might not be meaningful work, but it will be a valuable learning opportunity.”

According to a recent policy brief from the National Education Association, when schools, parents, families and communities work together to support learning, students tend to earn higher grades, attend school more regularly, stay in school longer, and enroll in higher-level programs.

The goal is to develop and strengthen the statewide career exploration opportunities for students in grades 7-12, according to the grant report.

Hoffman, who has organized a similar program at his previous school, feels this program is an exciting way for students to experience real-life opportunities to deepen their sense of their career interests and the economic opportunities available to them in the community.


During the recent school board meeting, Hoffman said that the COVID-19 pandemic had pushed the students away from school.

“I think there were some silver linings for individual students, and I would like to harness those silver linings,” said Hoffman. “Some students may have ended up tinkering with a car in the garage because of the immense amount of the time at home, or some may have taken up a job that they wouldn’t otherwise take, but those things represent silver linings.”

Hoffman added: “We have the opportunity to expand upon and capture moving forward in a way that will help our students better know their futures and better experience things to plan for those futures.”

The program is likely to start in the next couple of weeks. The school has identified some students who will be a part of it.

“We hope to begin the program within the next couple of weeks,” said Hoffman. “We will be working with a few initial students during this second semester, as well as sharing information with our students in preparation for next year.”

Once the program is fully established, students will work with the community pathways coordinator to develop plans to implement in the future.


“We hope that all these things will occur during the school year, potentially during the school hours, maybe after the school hours as well,” said Hoffman. “There will be opportunities for the summer months as well that the community learning coordinator will help support students connect with in advance for the summer.”

The students can take up the program as an independent study, internship, or work-based study, contributing to academic credit.

While there is a limit on the number of students that can access the program at one time, all students are eligible to participate in the program.

According to the state’s ARP ESSER grant document, the Maine Department of Education is also planning to establish an Extended Learning Program to support the development of the extended learning opportunities for students across the state and connect students to local industry employers.

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