Celebrating Educator Appreciation Month: Spotlight on Katie Bustamante

    [fa icon="calendar"] May 7, 2024 11:30:00 AM / by Riley McCarthy

    Riley McCarthy

    May is Educator Appreciation Month, and to celebrate we are highlighting Katie Bustamante, the Vice President of Goodwill Education Initiatives and The Excel Center National Office. Katie is a shining example of an educator who not only taught students in the classroom but also became a community builder and impact maker through her role with The Excel Center®.  


    Katie grew up dreaming about becoming a journalist, but teaching and coaching was a family passion as well. Katie spent several years as a swim coach during summer breaks and decided to apply to Teach for America as a way to honor her own swim coach who passed away from cancer. 


    In 2010, Teach for America offered Katie a position teaching English at George Washington High School in Indianapolis. After learning about The Excel Center through her Teach For America cohort, Katie joined The Excel Center as a founding member of the location in Indianapolis’ west side in 2013.  She focused on College and Career Readiness (CCR), helping prepare students for life after graduation. 


    After working for several years in CCR, Katie applied for the Experiential Program for Preparing School Principals at Butler University. Once she received her master’s in educational administration and her principal’s license, Katie applied to become director of the same The Excel Center she taught at previously. As a school director, Katie attended The Excel Center National Conference and connected with other school leaders who were impacting students across the country using The Excel Center model. In 2018, she began working full time with The National Office with the goal to increase the number of Excel Center locations, both within Indiana and across the nation.


    Currently, there are 16 Excel Center locations in central and southern Indiana and 25 more across the country. The goal is to grow to 50 schools by the end of 2026 and 85 schools by the end of 2030. In meeting with partners to determine the feasibility and interest in opening a new school, Katie always reminds herself of the ability and responsibility to impact more people. “It pumps me up to think we could be the solution for the more than 29 million people in the United States without a high school diploma,” said Katie. “If we can do our work in more and more spaces, we can impact generations to come. Not only our students, but the children and grandchildren of our students.”


    Katie loves hearing stories about students whose lives have changed because of The Excel Center – like one former student, Saja Abbas.  After earning her pharmacy technician certification from The Excel Center in 2016, Saja went on to earn her bachelor’s degree in chemistry and pre-pharmacy from Indiana University - Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) in 2020 and will be graduating with her Doctorate of Pharmacy from Purdue University in May. “Saja’s life is forever changed because of The Excel Center and I want to do that for more people,” Katie said.


    The Excel Center partners with Notre Dame University’s Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO) to study this academic model, and LEO has provided scientific data which backs up The Excel Center’s success. Having that data makes The Excel Center model unique. According to LEO, less than 1% of non-profit organizations in the country have third party causal evidence demonstrating their effectiveness. “The Excel Center is also different because we meet students where they are,” said Katie. “Each experience is individualized with assistance from life coaches and wrap-around support. We offer licensed in-person teachers, childcare and transportation assistance.”  


    While working to expand the number of Excel Center locations around the country, Katie is excited to take time during Educator Appreciation Month to pause and say thank you to the people who are working tirelessly day in and day out at each school. “During the school year, there’s no time to do that since things are moving so quickly to help each student’s unique situation,” said Katie. “I am super proud of The Excel Center and passionate about being a part of a group that empowers others through education, employment and health. This is a great place to be!”


    Since 2010, The Excel Center has helped thousands of graduates increase their earning potential with a free Indiana Core 40 high school diploma. To learn more about enrollment, please visit excelcenter.org.

    Riley McCarthy

    Written by Riley McCarthy

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