SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – MERS Goodwill opened four Excel adult high schools in 2018 as a more family-friendly tool for individuals to earn their high school diplomas, tailoring the program to adults’ situations rather than teenagers’.
Springfield chapter director Joe Cole told The Heartlander that the biggest question the new students have is, “How long will it take?” Much to many students’ surprise, the structure of the program is also more student-friendly than other similar programs and usually takes much less time.
“Unlike a GED or HiSET, we pull a student’s transcript,” Cole said. “So, at whatever point they were unable to complete their high school diploma, we carry over those records. If somebody for example, made it to their senior year and for whatever reason stopped attending high school, we can then take those credits they already earned and apply that here. So, they have a much shorter distance to travel before graduation,” said Cole.
“We’ve had students come in here with zero credits and had never set foot in a high school. Depending on their availability at full-time, it could take a year and a half to two years. If they have an open time period, they can do it faster. I’ve also had students who were just shy of a PE credit or health credit take one class and then graduate.”
According to Cole, another question students generally ask is, “What if I am too old or did not learn well in a school setting?”
“We tailor all of our classes on what the adult learner needs,” Cole said. “It’s not the same curriculum that is going to be taught in a high school setting because this is for adults. I can tell you we’ve had people in their 70’s who have successfully graduated. There is no time where it’s too late to come back and finish up. It’s really for anybody.”
Springfield’s Goodwill Excel chapter also offers dual credit courses, allowing students to earn both high school and college credits for completing certain classes.
With having to adapt to adults’ circumstances rather than teenagers’, there are a few unique aspects of the Goodwill Excel program that individuals wouldn’t see in a conventional high school – including free childcare.
“Daycare is one of the most important things that we offer here on campus,” Cole said. “Daycare is 100% free. It enables those who might not otherwise have that option. They bring their children here and their kids are in the same building while they get to learn and complete their high school education.”
Cole encourages students to carefully explore different career paths because Goodwill Excel offers assistance in paying for students’ certifications such as HVAC or nursing.
“One of the ways we are measured by the state legislature is, they want to talk about our outcome,” Cole said. “We want to make sure that over half of our students leave here having some college credits earned or a certification. It’s also about gainful employment – making sure that six months out of here they are making more money than they would have had they not received a high school diploma.”
Goodwill Excel of Springfield has graduated five classes totalling about 800 students since their opening in 2018. According to Cole, the graduation ceremony is “100% real” as the program has partnered with Drury University which allows Excel to use the O’Reilly Center for the ceremony.
Graduates receive their diploma on-stage in a traditional cap and gown ceremony with their friends and families in attendance.
Springfield’s Goodwill Excel chapter is located at 1514 S. Glenstone Ave. Individuals interested in attending the program can register on their website or call 417-862-5005 for more information.