"We really want to thank the community for allowing us to extend the classroom out there," she says.
She says having the community involved makes a huge difference in the success of the program.
The O2 program is designed to give students a taste of the working world, and try jobs they are interested in. Classroom work involves a wide variety of job readiness skills, starting with resume and interview work and up to portfolio development and skills assessments.
Application for the O2 program starts at the end of Grade 9, and the program runs through all three years of high school. The program earns students a total of six credit hours, three in the classroom and three in community work placements.
"The focus of the program is to allow students to develop their own skill sets and career pathways, and try on jobs before they go on to their post secondary training," says Collins.
Students can go to just about every type of business that exists in Queens County. Mason says this year students have worked in cosmetology, at Nova Scotia Power, in early childhood development, culinary, optometry, and at Queens Manor.
"Students are able to explore facets of their gifts they normally wouldn't be able to explore," says Collins.
It isn't an easy ride for the students either. They are expected to do the duties of an employee, and have the same level of responsibility.
"We don't want moms phoning up saying someone can't make it to work. If the person can't get there, first it has to be a good reason, second they have to phone the employer to tell them," says Gerry Mason, placement coordinator with the program.
He adds they have to add to the productivity of the business. Like any job, sometime the fit isn't right. If the employer or the student feels the placement isn't working the placement ends early, and the student needs to find another placement.
The portfolio work is quite involved, filling a two-inch thick binder. All their certifications, skills assessments, personality tests and examples of their work are included in the binder.
Mason says one student after graduation went to a specialized cosmetology school in New Brunswick with her portfolio in tow to apply. He says they basically admitted her to the school on the spot after looking over her work.
The program is one of the few in the school system that requires admission, and can take up to 20 students each year. This is because of how much work is involved with the program, and the level of commitment needed by the students.
The students are involved with the community as well. They have been involved in several volunteer efforts, such as the weekly unloading of trucks at the Queens County Food Bank, and with two projects with Habitat for Humanity.
Their latest project was finishing a gazebo they started last year in front of Liverpool Regional High School. This year they focused on adding stonework around the structure, benches inside and some landscaping around it all.
Mason says projects like this give an insight in the students as well.
"You could see what personalities will become leaders in their fields, who was comfortable with power tools and who was really into the design aspect," Mason says.
Mason says throughout the program they see a tremendous amount of growth in the confidence and abilities of the students. He says the program is much more focused on the individual student, and they draw on skill sets not normally used in the classroom
The program has a working relationship with the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC). Students spend one week in the Spring at the school to work with instructors in their fields of interest. They go through the basics of the coursework over the week, to get a better feel for what is involved.
If the student decides to go on to NSCC after graduation, the O2 program gives them a competitive edge. The college recognizes there work, and their application is given a preferred look, especially for in demand courses. Last year for example, the electrician program had 160 applicants, with just 20 seats available.