From English Language Learner to Graduate

    [fa icon="calendar"] Dec 20, 2019 12:00:00 PM / by Ashley Martinez

    Seven years ago, Karen Narvaez arrived in the United States from Nicaragua with little knowledge of the English language, but with a strong thirst for knowledge and a drive to succeed. After seeking out basic English courses, she was referred to The Excel Center by a friend in 2015. Unsure at the time of her ultimate career and education goals, Karen enrolled at The Excel Center part-time, with the idea that earning her diploma would help improve her fluency in English. However, Karen’s motivation soon began to change. Despite a transportation barrier, she set — and accomplished — her goal of attending school every day, and even completed her courses at the top of her class in Anderson.


    Her determination and perseverance were obvious to the staff. With the support of her husband and the encouragement from Life Coach Grissel Mayanin, Karen decided to think beyond using the courses to aid her goal of mastering the English language and become a full-time student.

    “Ms. Grissel really believed in me,” said Karen, “She made me realize that I could graduate from high school and earn my diploma.”


    The Excel Center’s free, on-site child care allowed Karen, a mother of young children, to focus on her classes without the added stress of affording safe and reliable child care. She also relied on The Excel Center’s free transportation assistance, as well as the help of friends and family, to make the commute to and from school. She dreamed of overcoming this barrier by obtaining her driver’s license. With each passing day at The Excel Center, Karen’s confidence grew and she set the goal of obtaining her license before graduation. She studied hard and passed her exam, accomplishing her goal of becoming a licensed driver.


    As Karen looks ahead to graduating in February 2020, she attributes the support from The Excel Center staff as to helping her accomplish her goals and overcome barriers. She also worked with a Goodwill Guide — a career and life coach who provides support to students after they graduate.

    As a part of The Excel Center graduation requirements, each student must complete a Senior Seminar, a course that helps refine soft skills, set post-secondary goals and prepare for next steps. Karen’s Guide, Ashley, helped prepare her final presentation for Senior Seminar, as well as develop a plan for what to do after she graduates from high school. Leveraging the Early Childhood Education certification she earned while at The Excel Center, Karen also worked with her Guide on a plan to build her career and pursue additional post-secondary education. Through the Guides program, Karen is also eligible to receive financial support to obtain additional certifications that would help her accomplish her career or educational goals.


    “I am so proud of Karen and what she has achieved so far,” said Ashley. “I can’t wait to continue working with her and see where her successes will lead her.”

    To learn more about The Excel Center or the Goodwill Guides program, please visit


    Topics: The Excel Center, Education, Language Barrier, Mission Coaches

    Ashley Martinez

    Written by Ashley Martinez

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