March/April 2018 – BizVoice/Indiana Chamber 27 Gloria Turner lights up a room at The Excel Center, a tuition-free high school for adults. Her dress is bright and colorful. Her smile is self- assured. With folded hands – and a unique effervescence – she recalls her inspiring journey. “In 2012, I’d hit a really rough patch in my life where I was faced with homelessness. My car was up for repo and I was a single mother. In order for me to jumpstart my life, I needed child care.” The Excel Center, owned and operated by Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana, provides adults with an opportunity to attain an Indiana Core 40 high school diploma while earning college credits and a variety of industry-recognized certifications. Examples include patient access, customer service, logistics readiness and pharmacy technician. It offers a free drop-in center for child care, transportation assistance and a program for expectant mothers. At first, Turner’s aspirations were solely related to “child care for survival.” An orientation session, however, set her on a different course. “I will never forget the few words that changed my life. The director at the time said, ‘Hey, are you ready for this?’ ” When her career coach told her to anticipate graduating in two- and-a-half years (work commitments limited her to part-time student status), it wasn’t soon enough for Turner. The ambitious third- generation high school dropout graduated in just over seven months. Today, she’s a life coach at an Excel Center in Indianapolis. “This experience touches everyone. The students here – even the ones I work with on a daily basis – you can see how eager they are to make changes in their lives,” she declares. “It’s not always easy to climb that mountain when you have a backpack full of stones. But they do it every day and they’re an inspiration even to me.” Inspiring stories like Turner’s continue to unfold. About The Excel Center: • Started in 2010 (in Indianapolis) • Graduates: More than 3,000 • Industry-recognized certifications earned: 4,000-plus • Graduates with postsecondary credits: 97% Embracing diversity The Excel Center West is housed in an old church in Indianapolis. A security guard checks in visitors. A determined student, carrying a baby in a car seat, politely moves through a group of people in the hall. The Excel Center operates on five, eight-week terms. “We’re in the last week of the term,” whispers director Katie Morgan as she passes classrooms. “They start their tests tomorrow. Today is the review day.” The Excel Center is operated by the not-for-profit Goodwill Education Initiatives. Currently, there are 12 locations throughout central and southern Indiana. One will open in Muncie later this year. In addition, The Excel Center serves students in northern Indiana (Hammond and South Bend) and has expansion locations in Tennessee, Texas, Arkansas and Washington, D.C. Flags adorn a wall at The Excel Center West, representing the 26-plus languages spoken there. “Collaboration’s big with our students for multiple reasons,” Morgan comments. “At our location, in particular, we’re very diverse. People are from all over the world. All sorts of different backgrounds. Indiana Vision 2025: Outstanding Talent Nearly half of The Excel Center students are parents. An on-site drop-in center removes a common barrier: the cost of child care. Staff members partner with students on academic, professional and personal challenges. Almost 40% of the school’s graduates pursue postsecondary education.