Excel Center Grad Beats the Odds

    [fa icon="calendar"] Apr 15, 2022 10:16:38 AM / by Jenny Kakasuleff

    Jenny Kakasuleff

    Dontre 1 (1)

    There are more than 447,450 working-age Hoosiers who lack a high school diploma. Prior to The Excel Center, Goodwill’s unique high school for adults, there were few options for people like Dontre Smith who wanted to earn one.

    “I was in the worst condition of my life, living in a semi-abandoned house,” Dontre said, referring to the place he called home on-and-off for nine years.

    Due to homelessness and lack of transportation, Dontre had a difficult time keeping a job. He also lacked a support system.

    “I never had a positive role model. I had no drive or motivation until my beautiful goddaughter was born,” Dontre said. “I was ashamed that I couldn’t afford to give her anything for her first birthday.” 

    A few days later, he enrolled at The Excel Center. He worried that he might not be able to finish due to his learning disability, but he trusted the teachers and staff and found a support system he had never had before.


    “I made it to school every day despite my living arrangement, but it was difficult,” Dontre said. “There were strange people at the house at all hours of the night looking for a high, causing me to go to school sleepy, irritated and miserable.”

    In order to ensure Dontre had a safe place to live to focus on his studies, the school arranged for him to stay in a hotel.

    “I will forever be thankful for that,” Dontre said. “I don’t believe I would have made it to graduation if they hadn’t provided food and shelter to me.”

    In June 2020, Dontre earned his diploma as well as a Certified Nurse Aide certification and is currently employed at a home health agency. 

    Learn more: excelcenter.org

    Topics: Success Story, The Excel Center, Education, COVID-19, Mission Awareness, Mission Coaches

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