Excel Center of MERS Goodwill in St. Louis gives free education

High school redux

The Excel Center of MERS Goodwill in St. Louis gives adults free education towards a high school diploma

By Charlotte Beard

Along with the many students that returned to school last week, The Excel Center of MERS Goodwill located at 1727 Locust Street in St. Louis welcomed new students and returning students for the second year. Classes resumed Aug. 12 for adults who are working towards obtaining their high school diplomas instead of a GED. Pre-existing high school credits can be applied to the program.

The Excel Center of St. Louis, one of three centers in Missouri, launched its first school year in October 2018 and currently has 385 students enrolled. In addition to funding from MERS Goodwill, Jadee Lauer the Director of St. Louis’ center shared there is a portion of funding with the state that is set aside specifically for training and providing skills to individuals eligible for the SNAP program

“We’re able to tap into that money (to) train and give education and skills to students so that they can eventually get off that public benefit,” stated Lauer.

People seeking to attend The Excel Center to receive a diploma must be age 21 and older. Lauer shared that the center currently has a 74-year-old attending. Attendance is currently limited to Missouri residents due to funding coming from Missouri. There are other locations in Springfield and Poplar Bluff.

“We had our first graduation in May,” stated Lauer. “We had six who graduated in May. We had the graduation (at the center) with lots of people – lots of students attended so they could get re-inspired. Right now, we’re planning a December graduation.”

“As part of MERS Goodwill’s mission of changing lives through the power of work, our commitment with the Excel Centers is to enhance career potential and provide access to jobs,” said David Kutchback, President and CEO of MERS Goodwill. “We are so grateful to have seen the successful outcomes of our former Excel Center students and graduates and are looking forward to building upon these achievements and beginning a new school year.” 

The classes are structured to allow flexibility for student schedules. The time required to obtain needed credits to graduate is dependent on those needs. Monday through Thursday there are two morning classes that start at 8:40 a.m. and 10 a.m. Following the lunch break period classes resume at 12 p.m. and 1:20 p.m. Monday through Thursday. In lieu of Friday classes, tutoring assistance is available on that day. Evening classes are scheduled like college schedules with classes on Monday and Wednesday, and Tuesday and Thursday running 5:45 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. Students can take one evening class which would include attendance two nights a week or enroll in two evening classes for attendance four nights a week.

“Availability and the number of credits that they need to get that diploma is what determines how long it will take. We encourage students to take as many (classes) as they can handle and not interrupt whatever their life situation is.”

In addition to offering adults free education towards a high school diploma, The Excel Center provides additional support for the students’ efforts.

“We have life coaches; every student gets one. They play a real integral part in the student’s time here. If students are having any difficulties, that is their go-to person.  We also try to do a career inventory assessment with all our students to find out what their goal is when they leave us. We are hoping that those students want to either get some additional training in an industry recognized certification (program) or go on to community college or a four-year university. We encourage them to obtain some other certification so that when they get their diploma and get certification they can get right into that job.”

Lauer also stressed that life coaches are available to assist graduating students with paperwork for training and schooling beyond The Excel Center.

The Excel Center offers free onsite childcare while a student is attending classes. Students pick up their child after their classes have ended. In addition, transportation assistance to and from classes is available for students who qualify.

Adults interested in applying to attend The Excel Center may call 314-982-8802 or visit https://mersgoodwill.org/excel-center-registration-form/.

CUTLINE: Submitted photos

Cover-School1 Five graduates of The Excel Center of MERS Goodwill in St. Louis stand together after their graduation ceremony in May.

Cover-School2 A graduate of The Excel Center of MERS Goodwill in St. Louis stands with her family after her graduation ceremony in May.