Excel Center expanding with legislature approval
Goodwill of Central and Southern Indiana says the Indiana General Assembly approved an additional 1,650 seats for The Excel Center, Goodwill’s high school for adults. The approval includes expanding seat offerings at a few existing schools and establishing new schools in Indiana.
The Excel Center said 450 seats would be added at schools in Elkhart, Gary, Hammond, South Bend, and Bloomington, while 1,200 will be added at proposed new locations, each with 300 seats.
The new locations include Evansville, Columbus, Terre Haute, and Twin Aire (Indianapolis).
The Excel Center focuses on assisting adults to earn their high school diplomas, increase their independence, and reach their potential. The expansion will help serve 6,550 adult students in 23 Excel Centers across Indiana, the school said.
“Goodwill offers a variety of employment, education, and health services aimed at helping individuals and families become economically self-sufficient, recognizing that nearly half a million working-age Hoosiers lack a high school diploma and in-demand workforce training,” said Betsy Delgado, senior vice president and chief mission and education officer at Goodwill of Central and Southern Indiana.
She said the need to enhance education levels and improve workforce development skills persists in the state and country. Delgado said there had been an increased need for skilled workers since the pandemic began, leading to a greater demand for education and career advancement.
She added that the Excel Center could address this need due to its intensive and flexible curriculum, which enables students to graduate quickly and prepare for postsecondary education or employment opportunities.
The program also offers free on-site child care, transportation assistance, and opportunities to earn college credits and industry-recognized certifications.
Goodwill said the expansion will provide increased education and employment opportunities to families across the state, helping to combat generational poverty and unpreparedness to compete in the workforce, including upcoming generations of Hoosiers.
Goodwill highlighted the journey of Dakota McLaughlin, who faced various difficulties, such as losing his mother at a young age, being a victim of bullying in school, and feeling isolated after coming out as gay. Additionally, he experienced domestic violence from a family member, which led him to leave home, despite not having a place to go.
Due to these hardships, McLaughlin dropped out of school and became homeless. He got involved with the wrong group of people and started using drugs. This caused his life to quickly spiral out of control, Goodwill said.
Although he ended up being involved with the criminal justice system, it wasn’t until he woke up on the sidewalk after a three-day bender, covered in ice, that he realized he had hit rock bottom. Following his probation officer’s suggestion, McLaughlin enrolled in The Excel Center.
He said attending The Excel Center helped him adopt a growth mindset and ease some of the anxiety he was experiencing. He also received guidance from a Goodwill mission coach who aided him in the college and financial aid application processes.
At his graduation ceremony in 2021, McLaughlin shared his story and how The Excel Center opened up new opportunities for him to help those who have faced similar challenges. He is pursuing an associate of science degree in criminal justice at Ivy Tech Community College and intends to further his education after graduation, according to Goodwill.
“What I’ve experienced does not define me,” he said. “How I use my experience defines me.”
According to Delgado, the Goodwill infrastructure, community partners, and supporters nationwide strongly endorse The Excel Center. The Excel Center’s success led to its national expansion in 2013, and it now has almost 40 locations in the United States.
The national office for The Excel Center is located in Indianapolis and advocates for establishing additional schools to increase the number of students served.
After announcing the expansion in Terre Haute, Wabash Valley Goodwill said the proposed Excel Center will improve the quality of life for residents in the region. The organization has been granted 300 seats to offer a new local Excel Center serving the residents of east central Indiana.
“Having a Goodwill Excel Center in Terre Haute allows Wabash Valley Goodwill to continually elevate our mission by providing career readiness and pathways to help equip individuals for workforce opportunities in Indiana,” said Meredith Osburn, President and CEO of Wabash Valley Goodwill in a news release.
Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana’s President and CEO, Kent Kramer, expressed gratitude for the legislature’s support of the critical expansion.
“We are excited to provide increased education and employment opportunities to families across the state,” said Kramer.
The Excel Center said it has had a strong record of success, with over 7,500 students graduating from its 19 Indiana locations since 2010. More than 8,000 industry-recognized certifications have been earned, and 99% of students graduate with postsecondary college credits and/or an industry-recognized certification.
According to the University of Notre Dame’s Laboratory of Economic Opportunity, Excel Center graduates saw a 39% increase in their earnings in five years.
Interested students can enroll in The Excel Center through the enrollment process.