The Excel Center®
Recognizing that more than 700,000 adults in Indiana lack a high school diploma, Goodwill opened The Excel Center for adults in 2010. It is not a GED/HSE program; instead, The Excel Center is a public school for adults who want to earn a high school diploma. There are currently five locations in Indianapolis — W. Michigan Street, The Meadows, Franklin Road, W. 34th Street and University Heights — and one location each in Anderson, Kokomo, Lafayette, Noblesville, Shelbyville and Richmond.
Total enrollment for the 2015-16 school year was nearly 3,000.
- More than 70% of our students have household incomes below 185% of the federal poverty level. 70%
- 81% of our students receive some form of public assistance, the average amount of which is $8,843. 81%
- 53% of our students have children under age 18. 53%
Students at The Excel Center have “coaches” who help address challenges with transportation, child care, health and family situations — circumstances that can hinder progress in school. Free child care is provided on-site for the young children of students while they are in class. The Excel Center’s locations are open year-round, mornings through evenings.
Classes can be scheduled to fit each student’s situation. Curriculum materials meet Indiana state standards, and the school’s design enables students to accelerate credit attainment.
Each year, Goodwill recognizes a student from The Excel Center who demonstrates characteristics of excellence and a commitment to earning her/his diploma. This year, Goodwill and The Excel Center want to recognize Ron Smith of The Excel Center Richmond as the 2016 Outstanding Student Achievement Award recipient. Ron was recognized at the Goodwill Annual Awards Breakfast earlier this year.
At 49 years old, it’s hard for Ron Smith to believe he was selected for the “Outstanding Student Achievement Award” this year. It’s a huge moment for the Richmond student, who spent nearly 20 years of his life battling addiction.
Richmond Excel Center Director Markous Jewett says Ron easily stood out. “Ron has pulled himself up from a very difficult life and is relentless in his quest for a brighter future,” Jewett says.
It wasn’t unheard of for Ron to drop-out of high school at 16-years-old. He worked in construction, had children and started a paving business. But, when he had extra money, things went south. He quickly found himself addicted to drugs and lost his business.
When he tried to change his life and find work, the rejections took him deeper down a dark path. However, just days after telling his mom she should give up on him, life threw Ron a curveball.
Ron learned his girlfriend, who also loved to party, was pregnant with his child and he worried she wouldn’t have a stable parent. His fears proved true. When Nevaeh was born, Ron’s girlfriend disappeared with her. “I was terrified, I knew I was the only thing in the world she had,” he says.
A month later Nevaeh’s mom was arrested for neglect in Florida, and his daughter was all alone. At that moment, Ron says he knew his daughter deserved better. “I stopped doing drugs the day I left for Florida,” he says.
“I had to learn to be a parent, a mom and dad overnight,” Ron says. He got professional help for his addiction and looked for work, but had trouble finding a job without a diploma. Ron tried to get his GED, but struggled.
“I felt like a number at the GED place, it wasn’t for me,” he says. Then, he learned about The Excel Center.
The Excel Center was an answer to his prayers. Ron quickly developed close relationships with the team. “I found a family when I came here,” he says.
After two years of hard work, Ron graduated in December. “I put in the work, but they lifted me up along the way,” he says. Today, Ron is still a regular staple at the school. He helps with maintenance jobs and mentors other students. “I don’t want to be someone who just takes things,” he says.
Following graduation, Ron enrolled at Ivy Tech and earned his CDL license. Last week, he received 11 job offers. Ron also repaired his relationship with his other children, and two of them attend The Excel Center now as well.
Nevaeh continues to flourish at her new school, thanks to The Excel Center daycare staff, Ron says. “I feel blessed everyday to have her,” Ron says. “I saved her, but she saved me too.” Ron’s family was excited to watch him accept his award. “I never thought I would be worthy of praise, I’m so thankful I left all that behind me,” he says.
You can see Ron’s story here: Ron Smith 2016 Excel Center Student Achiever
Indianapolis Metropolitan High School
Goodwill opened Indianapolis Met in 2004. The school focuses on career and college readiness, providing individualized plans that help students prepare for next steps such as starting a career or pursuing a two- or four-year degree.
To date, 560 students have graduated from the school.
Two years after graduation, nearly 70% have earned a post-secondary credential or are still enrolled.
Nearly 300 students were enrolled for the 2015-16 school year.
At Indianapolis Metropolitan High School, on the city’s near west side, students in grades 9-12 are preparing for next steps in post-secondary education and careers. Operated by Goodwill Education Initiatives, Indianapolis Met offers more than high school diplomas. Dual-credit college courses are available, as are industry-recognized certifications, hands-on internships and opportunities for post-graduation job placement.
A quiet leader and one of Indianapolis Met’s top seniors, Diamond demonstrates to her peers what it takes to be successful. She’s a hard worker who overcame challenges from the start, earning A’s and B’s as a freshman despite being homeless that year. Now, she’s graduating and has been accepted to Ball State University, where she plans to study in the pre-pharmacy program — an interest sparked by her coursework and a pharmacy technician certification offered by Indianapolis Met. When Diamond finishes college, she will be the first person in her family to have done so.
The Met changed my life because it’s not like a normal school. It’s like another parent. There is a bond between the staff and students. They actually say, “What do you want to be, and how can we help you get there?”
Diamond Buie, Indianapolis Metropolitan High School