Goodwill officials are thrilled. City officials are thrilled. Students are thrilled.
In a little more than a year, and almost exactly one year to the day of opening at its Harrison Street location, Shelbyville’s Excel Center has done just that – excelled.
“We are at capacity,” said Khalilah Palmer, director of the Excel Center which is operated by Goodwill Indy. “I couldn’t be happier.”
Actually, with 125 students currently, the center is a little bit over capacity which is 115, she said.
Excel is a tuition-free public charter school founded by Goodwill Education Initiatives Inc., a part of Goodwill Industries.
Launched in Shelbyville in August 2016, the school offers adult students who never graduated high school the chance to earn a Core 40 diploma, considered more advanced than a GED.
Those with a GED may enroll in the Excel Core 40 program.
In addition, the Excel Center offers employment certifications to help prepare students for work after graduation.
At a business roundtable discussion in Shelbyville recently hosted by the Shelby County Development Corp., Kris Deckard, director of Talent Source, Goodwill’s job placement service, praised the local Excel school.
“Our facility has not only met but exceeded our expectations. We’re very happy with what we’ve seen in the engagement and interest from your work force,” she said.
Besides the Core 40 diploma, the Excel Center awards certifications in the fields of Customer Service, Early Childhood Education, Logistics, Clinical Medical Assistant and Pharmacy Tech.
“We also do college classes,” said Palmer, the local center director.
To help adult students dealing with adult issues while in school, the Excel Center in Shelbyville offered free day care to students. To help those who graduate, the center has “Goodwill Guides” who mentor the new grads.
“They follow one student for a year after graduation,” Palmer said, to assist the new graduate with life adjustments such as finances and childcare.
And it’s all free, 100 percent free, she said.
Excel Centers are funded by a special allocation in the state government’s budget, Palmer explained.
“We don’t come out of K-through-12 funding,” she said, so funding for traditional public schools is not affected by the Excel program.
Goodwill Foundation, the charitable arm of the organization, provides support as well.
So far, 20 students have graduated from the Shelbyville Excel Center and a new class is due to graduate in 2018. A graduation ceremony is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Feb. 15 at the Strand Theatre.
Though the local Excel school is operating at capacity, expanding the program would require approval from the Indiana Charter School Board which regulates charter schools.
Palmer didn’t know if that would happen or not, but there is room to expand the program at their current facility, she said.