As the Island adult education nonprofit ACE MV continues to sharpen its focus on workforce development and collaboration with the regional high school, a new executive director has taken the helm. Holly Bellebuono, former executive coordinator of Healthy Aging Martha’s Vineyard, joined ACE MV as its leader in August.

In an effort to strengthen connections with students who are not aiming for four-year colleges, the organization recently moved its headquarters from Vineyard Haven into a room at the regional high school.

“For decades it’s been assumed that kids will graduate high school and go to college. It’s just been a natural progression,” Ms. Bellebuono said. “Part of what ACE is here to do is create a career pathway resource for the guidance department.”

Ms. Bellebuono said ACE MV seeks to be a conduit between the high school and the business community, bringing employers to the high school to discuss opportunities for job shadowing through a partnership with the Martha’s Vineyard Builders Association.

The education nonprofit, which dates to 2008, serves about 550 students annually, Ms. Bellebuono said, and the student population is diverse. They range in age from young adults to elders. Many are middle aged men who work in the trades. People from Brazil make up much of the high school equivalency exam prep classes.

In the early years, ACE MV classes were mostly focused on enrichment, but in recent years the organization has shifted to workforce development with the aim of providing a viable alternative to leaving the Island for post-secondary educational opportunities.

“It’s a change from 10 years ago when it was mostly women who signed up for cooking classes,” Ms. Bellebuono said.

Most classes are taught in the evenings in the regional high school. Annual expenses for the agency total about $250,000 and are covered by funding from towns, grants, donations and student tuition.

This year’s fall courses began in September and included full classes in Brazilian Portuguese and an introduction to the business accounting software Quickbooks. Also available are prep classes for the high school equivalency test, principles of management, and licensure for to operate hoisting equipment. Through a partnership with Fitchburg State University, ACE MV has also offered courses for credit in health sciences and education.

In a 2015 needs assessment and through ongoing communication with Island employers, Ms. Bellebuono said the organization has identified needs in business skills like Microsoft Excel and Quickbooks as well as softer skills like customer service and professional communication.

“From that came a really diverse list of what people need for training,” she said. “Everything from really specialized stuff to general things like business administration.”

This year, for the first time, Islanders will be able to pursue certification as an offshore wind power technician. The two-year, part-time program involves a partnership with Bristol Community College and Vineyard Power. The program begins in January and is open to adults and high school juniors and seniors.

“When they complete that they will be eligible to be hired by the company that’s going to be developing the wind farm off the south coast, or anywhere,” Ms. Bellebuono said.

An open house for the program will take place at the regional high school on Oct. 30 at 6 p.m. Registration for the courses begins after that. She also plans to organize a short employee boot camp in late spring for summer employees to polish softer skills. It will be an opportunity for summer workers, many of them returning college students, to learn about conflict resolution, team building and customer service. Ms. Bellebuono also hopes to add more resources for maritime trades, including a captain’s license course.

ACE MV has a staff of three full-time positions, all of which have seen turnover in recent months. Former executive director Sam Hart took a job with the Trustees of Reservations over the summer. Program director Jeannine Lenehan and administrative coordinator Megan Sutherland also left the organization.

Before taking the position at ACE MV, Ms. Bellebuono served for 10 months as Health Aging’s executive coordinator, focusing on an initiative to promote advance care planning for elders. She said she is excited about her new role and optimistic about the new chapter for the organization.

“I’ve followed ACE the whole time I’ve lived here, watching their courses and programs and how the organization has grown,” she said.

Her oldest child, Gabe, graduated from the regional high school last spring and is pursuing a career as a metal worker and sculptor rather than leaving the Island for college.

Ms. Bellebuono is also an herbalist, and has written several books on the healing properties of plants. She runs an herbal apothecary and teaches a residential two-week intensive course on herbal medicine during the summer. She said that experience running an herb school prepared her for her new role, and said she hopes to introduce more health curriculum at ACE MV.

“I’d like to bring in not only individual courses but a gerontology certificate and a [certified nurses aid] program and eventually a [registered nurse] and [licensed practical nurse] licensing program,” she said.

Much of her work so far has centered on finding faculty to teach courses and building a curriculum for the spring. Teachers for ACE MV courses are sourced from people who already live on the Island. Many of them are recently retired professionals.

“There’s such a diversity of people here. People have come from all over the world, so you get that global perspective. You get people who have been involved in businesses and careers elsewhere who have moved here... and they bring those skills with them,” she said.

She added that adult learners are rewarding to teach because they have set goals and are confident in their paths.

“They want to break boundaries and learn whatever they want to learn and ask questions and critique and explore,” she said. “Which can make them really fun.”