The Excel Center®, Goodwill’s tuition-free high school for adults, provided a priceless opportunity for Veronica McNeil to earn her high school diploma in a supportive environment.
Goodwill Mission Coach Benjamin Hutto began his journey with Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana in 2016 when he enrolled at The Excel Center®, Goodwill’s high school for adults. Previously homeschooled, Ben struggled to focus, which he later learned was related to undiagnosed attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder. But The Excel Center in Kokomo empowered him to earn the credits he needed to graduate at an accelerated pace.
Ben continued his education by earning an associate degree from Ivy Tech Community College in 2018, and his bachelor's degree from Indiana University Kokomo the following year. Then, in 2020, the pandemic happened.
Due to his laser focus on his education, Ben had no work history, and he experienced barriers to finding a job after graduating. His Goodwill Mission Coach encouraged him to apply for a leadership position at a local Goodwill store, which led to the next step of his Goodwill journey as a Retail Team Lead. Although Ben was later promoted, he strived to do something beyond the scope of retail. When the opportunity to become a mission coach emerged, he jumped at the chance and applied.
“I know it sounds cliche, but I really enjoy helping others,” said Ben. “I feel that, given my path at Goodwill, I’m uniquely qualified to help students and employees make those connections.”
In 2022, Ben was officially welcomed as the newest Goodwill Mission Coach. He now supports people with similar experiences, who have barriers to employment or education and can use a helping hand to reach their goals. As a mission coach, he connects Goodwill’s employees and students to a number of resources, like Goodwill New Beginnings, a reentry program for individuals previously involved in the criminal justice system, and The Excel Center – the first step in his own Goodwill journey.
“I really appreciate the chances Goodwill gave me,” said Ben. “They were willing to take a risk on me knowing that risks don’t always pay off. There are many companies that won’t do that, so when I’m working with our employees and students, I share my own journey to give them hope about what they can achieve at Goodwill.”
Bradley Sims believes that working for Goodwill is much more than a job — he considers it a family.
“The sober community here is unbelievable. I don’t think I would have made it without them. They had faith in me when no one else did,” Bradley said.
From a young age, Bradley faced a great deal of adversity while growing up with his grandparents in Brown County, Indiana. Both parents struggled with addiction, and his father also struggled daily to maintain his mental health. Watching his father struggle had a direct impact on Bradley’s own mental health.
“My father was suicidal, and it directly impacted me. I was never happy,” Bradley said.
Around age 15, Bradley was introduced to drugs. Shortly after, he discovered that his younger brother had taken his own life, sending him deeper into his battle with addiction. After finishing high school, Bradley and his girlfriend were incarcerated for crimes related to their addiction.
“Watching my girlfriend be taken away by the police was a turning point in me deciding to get sober,” Bradley said.
In addition, his mother passed away while he was incarcerated, leaving him a personal letter which would later help him enter rehab. He enrolled at The Amethyst House, a Bloomington based addiction treatment center. Here he was offered an employment opportunity through Goodwill.
In March 2021, Bradley started his new job at Goodwill’s Commercial Services in Bloomington. With the support of his peers and leadership, Bradley was promoted to the Line Lead position.
“Every aspect of my life has changed since joining Goodwill. I wake up happy, and I want to go to work,” Bradley said.
After joining Goodwill Commercial Services, Bradley obtained his driver’s license, purchased a vehicle and secured housing for his family. He continues to advance himself by mentoring coworkers and attending internal training to broaden his skill sets. He strives to overcome the adversity he faces each day.
“For me, the feeling of loving yourself and knowing that you mean something — that feeling of accomplishment is ten times better than drugs,” Bradley said.
Are you or someone you know looking for a career? Visit goodwillindy.org/careers to apply.
J’Shon Zeigler enrolled at Indianapolis Met High School, Goodwill’s high school for traditional-age students, his sophomore year.
Goodwill New Beginnings, Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana’s reentry program, was excited to celebrate its last graduation of 2023. Individuals who have experienced the criminal justice system were honored for achieving all of the requirements to graduate from the program and reenter their communities.
Since 2011, Goodwill Nurse-Family Partnership® (NFP) has paired first-time, expectant parents with a registered nurse for ongoing visits so they can provide the very best start for their children during the earliest, most developmentally critical years. Over 12 years, Goodwill NFP has served over 7,500 families across central and southern Indiana.
Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana is one of the largest employers for persons with disabilities in Indiana, with more than 1,600 current employees reporting a disability – 34% of our workforce. For 90 years, we’ve been employing individuals and providing job training to Hoosiers who experience barriers to employment.
I’ve noticed that as I get older, the decor in my home gets a bit more “boringtasteful” — and Halloween is no exception. Gone are the gory Halloween displays that I helped create with my roommates in college.