Linking Learning to Life, Inc.

Organization
Organization Name: 
Linking Learning to Life, Inc.
Organization Director: 
Rich Tulikangas
Program Name: 
Linking Learning to Life
Street Address: 
52 Institute Road
City: 
Burlington
State: 
VT
Contact
Contact Person: 
Rich Tulikangas
Contact Title: 
Executive Director
Contact E-mail: 
Program
Program Summary: 

Linking Learning to Life (LLL) is a comprehensive non-profit school-to-career organization whose goal is to assist students to make successful transitions into continued education and careers beyond high school. The mission of LLL is to improve the educational performance and advancement, and the employment and career prospects of all Chittenden County students. LLL operates several programs including the Career Direction Center at Burlington High School, the College Connections program, the Learn to Earn program, a school-based mentoring program, and several other community-based assistance programs. All programs are structured to assist students in receiving enough practical experience to make the successful transition to the workplace somewhat easier.

All LLL programs are open to youth with disabilities. In addition to other school-to-career programs, LLL runs a school-based vocational rehabilitation (VR) program in partnership with the Vermont Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. It provides intensive career exploration, job preparation, job placement assistance, and follow-up to students in grades 9 through 12 who have an identified disability. The program has an active caseload at any given time of 50 to 60 students. A school-based VR counselor works with students to develop goals, transition plans, and activities to prepare them for employment opportunities. An employment-training specialist supports students and employers with work-site learning activities and paid employment.

Program Structure/Design: 
Programs have been designed to meet specific identified needs of area students and to enhance existing learning opportunities. For example, the Career Direction Center at Burlington High School is a place where all students can go for career and college exploration assistance; it also provides extensive classroom outreach by embedding career development into curricula. The Center also provides students with community service and job-placement assistance. The College Connections program enables high school students to earn dual enrollment credit by taking courses at any of the six area colleges, and thereby helps students explore postsecondary education prior to graduation. A number of community-based learning options provide students with learning opportunities in workplaces or other community settings. A school-based mentoring program matches students in need of positive adult role models in their lives with caring adults in the community. And the Learn to Earn program, which has grown statewide, exposes ninth-graders to high tech and manufacturing career opportunities while emphasizing the math, science, and technology courses that they need in order to be successful.
States of Operation: 
VT
Youth Targeted: 
  • Out-of-school youth (in alternative settings or out-of-school)
  • In-school youth (low income -- eligible for free or reduced lunch)
  • Runaway and homeless youth
  • Youth with disabilities
  • Pregnant or parenting youth
  • Youth offenders
  • Youth in foster care or aging out
  • Urban youth
  • Minority youth
  • Youth with English as a second language
  • ODEP Funded: 
    No
    Profile Year: 
    2007
    Innovative Practices
    School-Based Preparatory Experiences: 
    LLL has supported a range of teacher professional development opportunities that connect applied and community-based learning with meeting high standards. Each summer, paid teacher internships with area businesses and non-profits are supported to help teachers adapt curricula to align them more directly with the needed skills and expectations outside of school. The following list provides examples of the opportunities LLL has supported that benefit teachers and the students in their classrooms: implementation of the Cisco Networking Academy Curriculum at the high school level; service-learning training to implement curricula; implementation of the REAL Enterprises curriculum at the middle and high school levels; in-service workshops on Long Block Scheduling for teachers; financial support for teacher attendance at national conferences; and School Development Institutes for teachers and administrators.
    Career Preparation and Work-Based Learning Experiences: 

    Career awareness and workforce preparation are at the heart of much of LLL's work. A Career Direction Center was created as a place for students to go for assistance with career and college exploration and planning, job information, and preparation for employment. Specific workforce-preparation activities include hands-on projects that utilize business or community resources, career development and community-based activities, work site visits, tours, job shadowing, internships, mentoring, and paid employment.

    Actual work-based learning opportunities have been provided in approximately 250 Burlington area businesses and organizations, and include unpaid internships in businesses as well as community service learning experiences. These also include a supported employment program for students with disabilities. The LLL school-based VR program provides early and intensive career preparation, work experience, and unsubsidized work for students with disabilities while they are still in high school. The goal is to reduce unemployment and associated difficulties for youth with disabilities when they graduate, and to prepare them for personal and vocational success. The summer Ready, Set, Work! program provides paid employment combined with pre-employment and personal development skills training for high risk incoming ninth- and tenth-grade students.

    Connecting Activities: 

    LLL staff members work closely with school guidance staff and special educators to assess and advocate for needed support services. LLL staff work hard to develop personal relationships with students as an aid to promoting personal development. In order to serve youth who are more difficult to reach, LLL has partnered with agencies that directly serve them. For example, LLL partners with the Spectrum Youth & Family Services, a local agency with a successful track record with high-risk and homeless youth, in order to expand access to the College Connections program for the youth they serve.

    All students who are eligible for LLL VR services are enrolled in the VR system. School special educators verify that students are receiving special education services through an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 plan. The program has two dedicated positions to provide job development and work site assistance to youth with disabilities and their employers.

    Organizational Practices/Administration
    Management: 
    The leadership of LLL has been constant since its inception in 1997, with the current Executive Director leading the effort. In the fall of 2002, LLL, through a Burlington School District initiative, merged with the regional school-to-work collaborative serving the rest of Chittenden County. As a result, a new non-profit organization -- Linking Learning to Life, Inc. -- was formed to sustain and expand school-to-career programs and services. A 17-member board of directors consisting of area business, education, and agency leaders oversees the work of the organization. The board is truly a working board with three active committees.
    Staff Development : 
    The LLL board and staff jointly developed a strategic plan that guides the ongoing work of the organization. One of the organizational practices for LLL is to conduct quarterly staff Action Research Days. These days are designated opportunities for the whole staff to reflect on data related to their work, develop plans for the future, celebrate their accomplishments, conduct team-building activities, and engage in professional development. In order to help students understand the skills and expectations of the workforce, LLL places teachers in six-week paid internships in business during the summer. They then develop classroom applications based on their experiences. This approach has proven an invigorating experience for many teachers, who match their skills and interests with projects that meet employer needs.
    Collaboration: 
    A fundamental way that LLL does business is through building working partnerships related to all of their programs and services. Partnership agreements are in place with many area schools, colleges, agencies, coalitions, and businesses; these agreements ensure that LLL and its partners jointly provide high quality learning opportunities for students. Many of these partnerships have led to leveraged financial resources that partially support our programs. LLL is also a founding member of the national Intermediary Network, a consortium of many of the top school-to-career organizations throughout the country. The network provides a forum for sharing best practice information, for policy and resource development, and for strategic planning among member organizations.
    Evidence of Success (Information and Analysis)
    Data: 
    LLL currently affects approximately 6,000 students per year. The following are examples of students served in 2003:

    • Thirty-two incoming ninth- and tenth-grade high-risk students participated in job preparation and paid employment through the summer Ready, Set, Work! program.
    • Fifty-nine students with disabilities in grades 9 to 12 received intensive career exploration, job skills training, and job placement through the Supported Employment program.
    • Statewide Learn to Earn presentations served 4,245 participants.
    • Seventy-two high school students enrolled in 87 college courses at five area colleges, earning dual enrollment credit through the College Connections program.
    • Thirty-two elementary and middle school students were matched with adult mentors in the community through the Mentors for Kids program.
    • Eleven hundred Burlington High School students were assisted with providing community service to a wide range of non-profit organizations throughout the area.
    Third-Party Documentation: 
    • In 1999 the National Transition Alliance (based at the University of Minnesota) recognized LLL as an "All Means All" School-To-Work Award Site for our commitment to, and success with, serving all students, including students with disabilities.
    • The American School Counselors Association and the US Army selected LLL as a "Planning for Life" exemplary career guidance program in 2000 and 2001.
    • LLL is one of only seven organizations selected nationally as a 2000 PEP Net (Promising & Effective Practices Network) Award sites by the National Youth Employment Coalition and the US Department of Labor.

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