CLARKSVILLE — The Excel Center will open its doors to bigger opportunities in adult learning in Southern Indiana next month.

Classes begin July 17 at the Excel Center in Clarksville, the newest of 13 free facilities across the state hosted by Goodwill of Central and Southern Indiana to help adults receive their Core 40 high school diploma, in-demand certifications and dual-credit courses to help them achieve success.

There are close to 700,000 Hoosiers currently without their high school diploma, Chris Locke, director of the Clarksville Excel Center, said. This program gives adults an opportunity to develop new skills, earn more money and be a role model for their children.

“This is sort of a second chance opportunity,” Locke said. “We know that life happens and people don’t get their high school diploma for a number of reasons.”

Since the programs started in 2010, nearly 2,400 students have graduated from the 12 locations throughout Central Indiana — more than 3,500 have earned industry-recognized certification and 96 percent graduated with post-secondary credits through the dual-credit program, according to a news release. The average annual wage increase for Excel Center graduates is $4,549.

As an adult public school, the center offers free tuition, childcare and transportation support. Classes run in five eight-week terms and Locke said the length of time it takes a student to graduate depends on how much prior education they have and where they fall in with placement tests and assessment.

“We encourage students in the beginning to take at least three courses,” Locke said. "We really want to get the students full-time so they can get their high school diploma as soon as possible.”

But it's at their pace, he said.

“You don't get penalized for not getting [the diploma] in a certain amount of time, but the goal is to create situations for them to be successful,” Locke said.

Kent Kramer, president and CEO of Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana, said the program was started in 2010 in response to a need Goodwill leaders saw in the population they serve.

“It is really tough today to find a family sustaining wage without a high school diploma and without additional credentials,” he said. “Working-age adults in the state of Indiana, there are 700,000 who don’t have a high school diploma and access to some of the jobs of today and tomorrow are going to require a high school diploma plus additional credentials.”

But this program allows the students an opportunity to get an edge on employment opportunities; a majority of the students who've gone through program in other Indiana cities have also earned dual college credits or industry certification.

“So when you walk across the stage at graduation time, you also have a credential of some sort that is marketable and can land you one of those advanced skill type jobs – whether it's welding or certified medical assistants, certified nursing assistants [or] advanced logistics,” he said.

“And we're really excited about Clarksville and Southern Indiana because there are a lot of logistics- [and] manufacturing-type jobs. We're excited to be able to provide some talent to those employers.

And Locke said he looks forward to the improvements the program is expected to have on the well-being of the community as well.

“We see it as not only an education but an economic development tool,” he said. “Our focus will be on the students but... we look forward to sitting down with as many community partners and businesses as possible to really give them an in-depth understanding of what the Excel Center is all about.”

A student orientation will be held Wednesday, July 12, at the center, 1329 Applegate Lane in Clarksville. It's open for students to get enrolled or just get some information about the program. No registration is required but bringing a transcript is required for enrollment.

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