Lakeisha Lewis, 36, is a hardworking, caring mother to her three children. In fact, throughout her entire life, she has often been responsible for the well-being of others.
“I was adopted at a young age by a household with 11 kids,” Lakeisha said. “I was the third oldest, so I did a great deal of the cooking, cleaning and caretaking. There was a lot being put on me.”
As a result of her workload and responsibilities, Lakeisha received an inconsistent education.
“School was fine, I enjoyed my classes, but the environment I was living in made it hard to attend regularly,” Lakeisha said. “I was a senior when I officially dropped out.”
She started a family at a young age, so continuing her education became difficult. Lakeisha decided to focus on raising her family and moving out on her own.
“I moved to Indiana while pregnant with my third child,” Lakeisha said. “All we had with us was a van and two bins of clothes.”
When searching for childcare services in her new neighborhood, Lakeisha learned about The Excel Center®, Goodwill’s high school for adults. In addition to providing students an opportunity to earn a Core 40 high school diploma, The Excel Center also offers on-site child care, life coaching and transportation assistance all at no cost.
“I enrolled during the pandemic when distance learning classes were available. The teachers were always there to answer my questions,” Lakeisha said. “I felt like I learned things I never learned before.”
Lakeisha did well in all of her classes at The Excel Center, though she admittedly struggled the most with math.
“A lot of times, because of math class, I didn't think I was going to make it. But being an adult in school helps. Instead of giving up on myself, I kept asking questions. If you don’t ask questions, then you never know!”
In addition to earning her Core 40 diploma, Lakeisha also earned a pharmacy technician certification. The Excel Center provides free industry certification courses and college credits to all students so post-secondary pathways such as college or a career are available immediately upon graduation.
“I worked very hard with our amazing Pharmacy Technician instructor, Katie, who also graduated from The Excel Center,” Lakeisha said. “Katie helps you step-by-step through the work, before and after hours. She pushed us to keep going.”
During the graduation ceremony, Lakeisha proudly walked across the stage with her three children in the audience to cheer her on.
“I was able to bring my kids to graduation. They were so excited,” Lakeisha said. “My older two knew what was going on. They were screaming and shouting and happy. I wanted to show them that if I can do it, they can do it.”
Lakeisha plans to work at a local pharmacy such as CVS or Walgreens. In the meantime, she continues to take care and motivate others around her to achieve their goals, no matter the obstacle.
“Anyone who needs to finish their education should go for it,” she said. “Don’t push it off. It doesn’t hurt to start right now. Just think positive, ask questions, and you can do it.”
To learn more about The Excel Center, visit excelcenter.org.