After all of these years of the United States, and specifically our region, focusing on educational results and graduation rates, the high school drop-out epidemic is still a major issue. Currently Indiana has a 15% drop-out rate with Michigan at 17%, Ohio 18% and Illinois at 17%. Many adults, after many years of adulthood, still find themselves without what many of us take for granted… a high school diploma. For many adults, there is no age limit, who have not achieved the basic high school graduation, getting an after high school college degree, seem unattainable. This past year, Goodwill Industries, helped to be the main catalyst of starting a school for adults called the Excel Center, located in South Bend, in a creative and strategic reuse if an old Bendix Building. The 6-9 month program helps to address those roughly 36,000 adults/ dropouts across our region from South Bend, Elkhart, Warsaw, and Goshen that do not possess a high school diploma. South Bend alone has 11% of its populations that does not have a high school diploma. So, how appropriate that a research and development building once designed to house Bendix/ Honeywell engineers, is now accommodating adults seeking additional education that leads to a high school degree. For many of these adults, this is step one, in what one hopes may lead to additional college attainment.
The building was transformed into an education center set up to work with approximately 300 students and to offer a full day’s school with courses of all types to assist adults with getting achieving an actual diploma, not just a GED. The center is equipped with licensed and certified teachers across all core subjects, state-of-the art classrooms, a workout area, a cafeteria and day care facilities for those who require child care. So what is different about this center versus other initiatives going on in our region? The curriculum is designed to promote the “3 R’s” - Relationships, Rigor and Relevance. There are also mentors, life skill coaches, as well as college and career advisors to help guide these students every step of the way on their journey to achieve what they have been chasing for many years.
Every year nearly 1 million high school students drop out of high school. So, what happens to these students if they do not complete high school? On average, a student who attains a high school diploma will earn $300,000 more over a lifetime than those who do not and individuals who have a college diploma earns over $1 million in wages than a high school dropout. So, what is the goal of the Excel Center? It really is more than a high school diploma; it is about setting up those who had no hope, to suddenly see themselves with a very bright future. The once vacant and abandoned Bendix research and development center, has been transformed into a beacon of hope, creativity, and entrepreneurship. The New Excel Center school building is back in business, as a transformational development center of sorts, changing the community in more ways than any engineer ever dreamed possible.