Goodwill Excel Center, D.C.’s Newest High School Experiment, Designed to Help Adults Earn Diplomas
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The school year has begun in the capital city, and while most freshmen are typically young, the students at a charter high school in Washington, D.C. appear older. This is because Goodwill Industries has established a campus specifically for adults to obtain their high school diplomas.
Last month, the Goodwill Excel Center opened its doors in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of the District, welcoming an initial class of over 300 students. The school offers a fast-paced, two-year program for individuals ranging from teenagers to 60-year-olds.
Significantly, this is the first charter school in D.C. that caters to adults and provides them with the opportunity to earn high school diplomas.
Scott Pearson, the executive director of the D.C. Public Charter School Board, explained, "Different students have different desires when it comes to graduating high school. This program fulfills the needs of those individuals and grants them a high school diploma when they would have otherwise dropped out."
The idea to bring this type of charter school to D.C. originated in 2013, when a staggering 2,000 people applied for jobs at the Marriott Marquis. Unfortunately, many applicants were disqualified due to their lack of a high school diploma, and others struggled to pass the required reading and math tests.
"We became acutely aware of this skills gap,” said Colleen Paletta, the vice president of workforce development for Goodwill of Greater Washington. "We began to ponder: What can and should we be doing to better assist our community?"
Seventy percent of the students at the Goodwill Excel Center reside in the city’s poorest Wards 7 and 8, with 75 percent being women. The campus also offers on-site childcare services operated by the YMCA, ensuring that parents can attend school while their children are taken care of.
Drawing from the accomplishments of similar schools in Austin, Indianapolis, and Memphis, Goodwill predicts that 75 percent of the attendees at the new school will graduate with job prospects or continue their education at college.
"We believe that sometimes individuals need a second chance, and in reality, they may need a third, fourth, or even tenth chance," remarked Amina Brown, the director of the Goodwill Excel Center. "We aim to be that second chance for our students."
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