“Three lessons that I learned in school are that George Washington fought Cornwallis in the Battle of Charleston, not to take things for granted and never give up.”
Gavin Hagan,19, was on-track to graduate high school. As a teenager, he owned a landscaping business, participated in after-school activities such as football and theater and prepared for college. His plans changed unexpectedly.
“I did not graduate with my high school class as planned,” Gavin said. “I was unfortunately expelled after an immature incident, and I found myself without a diploma.”
Only needing three credits to graduate, Gavin took a year off from school to focus on his career.
“It was tough. I had been defeated in sports, in school— you know, you study for a test all night but don’t get a good grade— but I had never been defeated in life,” Gavin said. “It was hard, but I thank God every day for it because it turned me into who I am. It made me fight. And I fought back.”
One day, Gavin heard about The Excel Center®, Goodwill’s tuition-free adult high school, from his girlfriend. The Clarksville location opened in July 2017 and serves nearly 200 students.
“I was nervous at first, but the experience was not all that different from regular high school,” Gavin said.
The Excel Center offers flexible scheduling and accelerated coursework so adults can graduate quickly and enter a career or enroll into college. In addition to Core 40 credits, Gavin earned a Certified Business Professional credential from The Excel Center— all at no cost.
“I really enjoyed the senior seminar class,” Gavin said. “My college and career readiness coach was incredibly helpful and has been almost like a father figure for me. He’s one of the main reasons why I graduated.”
As the Clarksville location’s first graduate, Gavin is prepared to address his class this June 15 at their graduation ceremony.
“I’m giving the speech,” Gavin said. “I can’t share too much because it’s a surprise.”
Gavin decided to share a small excerpt of his speech, which reads:
The road to get to this stage today has not been easy. It hasn't been for any of us. If you look out across the group of my fellow graduates, you will see that we do not share the same face, we do not share the same color of skin and we do not share the same backgrounds. However, we all have faced challenges. We all have felt struggle. No matter what has brought us here today, we all fought for this moment... for this right to be here. I am very proud to be graduating with each and every one of you from The Excel Center.