Goodwill strongly believes it is essential to raise education attainment levels in Indiana. Not only are the lifetime earnings of high school graduates significantly higher than those of dropouts, children of high school graduates are 50% less likely to drop out of high school than the children of dropouts are. Goodwill provides opportunities for adults (The Excel Center) and youth (Indianapolis Metropolitan High School).
The Excel Center
Recognizing that more than 475,000 working-age Hoosiers 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, Clarksville, Kokomo, Lafayette, Noblesville, Shelbyville and Richmond.
Total enrollment for the 2016-17 school year was 3,200+.
- 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%
All of our Marion County schools are authorized by the Mayor of Indianapolis. Schools outside Indianapolis operate under charters granted by the Indiana Charter Schools Board.
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. At 49 years old, it was hard for Ron Smith to believe he was selected for the “Outstanding Student Achievement Award.” It was a huge moment for the Richmond student, who spent nearly 20 years of his life battling addiction.
It wasn’t uncommon to drop out of high school back when Ron was 16. 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. 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. “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.
Indianapolis Metropolitan High School
Indianapolis Metropolitan High School is a free public school offering a high school education to students in grades 9-12. Indy Met is a best fit school for students experiencing significant barriers with an emphasis on ensuring students enroll in college or enter into a career that offers a living-wage post-graduation.
Indianapolis Met is designed to serve all students, including those who face significant barriers. Barriers may include:
Involvement in foster care
Identified as special education
At-risk for mobility
Involvement with criminal justice
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