Martha Bess has always had a love of learning, but personal barriers prevented her from finishing high school as a teenager. She married at 14 years old and started her own family, which grew to include six children. Over 20 years later, she began working with her church’s homeschool co-op, where her children attended, and soon discovered her own love of teaching. To advance her career and to continue to set a good example for her children, she knew she would need a high school diploma.
Kristani and Bryson Kovach are not high school sweethearts in the traditional sense. Then again, neither of their experiences with high school were traditional at first, either.
Growing up, Katie Reigelsperger had little support from her parents, who struggled with substance abuse. Over the years, Katie was in and out of the foster care system and struggled to find the stability and guidance that she needed to make healthy choices. Then, at the age of 13, she found out she was pregnant.
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.
Kiersten Manuel, 17, is an active high school senior. Not only does she achieve high grades and take Certified Nursing Assistant and dual credit classes, but Kiersten also participates in girls basketball and track. She is the Chief Financial Officer of her school’s student-run coffee shop, a staff intern and a part-time associate at Kroger.
Zachary Mobley, 30, may be one of the first students to attend the newest campus in Bloomington, but he is no stranger to The Excel Center®. Zachary first attended the University Heights location in 2017, making the drive from Bloomington to Indianapolis with his sister daily. Though he received a Certificate of Completion in his youth, Zachary struggled to find consistent, gainful employment without a diploma.
Kee Lab moved to Indiana in 2014 after living in a refugee camp in Thailand. Once her family settled in the Indianapolis area, Kee set out to understand American culture and to learn English. Shortly after she started attending her new high school, she found out that she was pregnant.
October is National Dropout Prevention Month, but Indianapolis Metropolitan High School works year-round on removing the barriers that many students face in trying to complete their education such as homelessness, criminal records, teen pregnancy and more.
Two years ago, if you had asked April Williams if she thought she would ever graduate high school, the answer likely would have been “no”.
Tom Wood Ford recently hosted an open house for Goodwill’s Excel Center students, graduates and mission program participants to learn firsthand about employment opportunities and a service tech apprenticeship program.