It's Never Too Late to Make the Grade at The Excel Center

    [fa icon="calendar"] May 10, 2017 11:41:25 AM / by Jenny Kakasuleff

    Jenny Kakasuleff

    The typical student at The Excel Center® – Goodwill’s high school for adult learners – is between 18-24 years old, but returning to school at the age of 47 isn’t the only characteristic that separates Brenda Leake from most of her classmates.

    Brenda graduated from The Excel Center at the age of 46

    Born with cerebral palsy, Brenda was told she would never be able to drive, have children or graduate from high school. Despite these predictions, she’s been driving for 25 years and has two sons, ages 20 and 17.

    “I have used the negative remarks as motivation to reach my goals,” said Brenda. “I want to inspire others by showing them that they can do anything they put their minds to.”

    When she enrolled at The Excel Center three years ago, she was determined to overcome this one last obstacle.

    “Brenda is not a big fan of algebra, but she worked tirelessly to improve her understanding and mastery of the subject,” said Ryan Deignan, Graduation Coach at The Excel Center. “I am so thankful that our paths crossed. She inspires me more than she knows.”

    Brenda's coach at The Excel Center was proud to hand her her diploma

    As a result of her hard work and persistence, Brenda received her high school diploma in January 2017.

    She has also been employed at the Avon Goodwill store for three years, first preparing clothing for the sales floor, and now as a productive member of the e-commerce team, selecting items for sale online. In her capacities as both a student and an employee, Brenda always strives for excellence. She now plans to earn an industry-recognized Pharmacy Technician Certification through The Excel Center to expand her career prospects.

    “I want to be a model to my young men and show them that sacrifices and hard work pay off,” said Brenda. “Just because you have a disability, does not mean you are incapable of reaching your life goals."

    Setting an example of perserverence for her sons is a strong motivator


    Brenda was recently honored at Goodwill's Annual Awards Breakfast with the 2017 Education Achievement Award. Watch RTV6's story and her award recipient video to learn more.


     RTV6, May 10, 2017


    Goodwill Awards Breakfast, Education Achiever of the Year

    Topics: Employment, Disability, Success Story, The Excel Center, Education, Retail, Mission Coaches

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