Excel Center for Adult Learners putting adults back in classroom - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Excel Center for Adult Learners putting adults back in classrooms

Source: WMC Action News 5 Source: WMC Action News 5
Source: WMC Action News 5 Source: WMC Action News 5
MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) -

Cynthia York, 48, stepped back into a classroom as a student Monday for the first time in decades.

“I dropped out in the seventh grade,” York said outside the former Norris Rd. Elementary that re-opened today as Excel Center for Adult Learners. “I need my high school diploma to be able to have the job that I want for my children and grandchildren.”

Cynthia was among 361 former Memphis high school drop-outs who made a life-changing move today. They went back to classes at the Goodwill Memphis Excel Center, the only Charter School for adults in all of Tennessee.

Jonathan Smith, 27, dropped out of Hamilton High a decade ago.

”Really, I never have had a job,” Smith said.

Now the father of 7- and 3-year-old children with another son on the way, Jonathan decided to go back to school.

”I’m trying to change, make a better way out of life,” he said.

Memphis Goodwill said the city has 120,000 high school dropouts. Chamber of Commerce leaders often say that one of the community’s greatest weaknesses in attracting quality jobs is an untrained workforce.

Goodwill Memphis is doing its part to help improve the lives of high school dropouts through the Excel Center program pioneered in Indianapolis.

Excel Director Eric Cooper told a large crowd at the opening ceremony, “We have hired teachers, staff and life coaches who share a commitment to changing Memphis.”

Mayor A C Wharton cut the ribbon on the first of a network of Excel Centers that Goodwill Memphis planned citywide.

“Each graduate will serve as a billboard one could construct that will attract others,” Wharton said. “Once they see that their friend who’s 28 years old did it and she came out fine, it’s going to catch on.”

“Memphis has the capacity, demographics, numbers and the need to open a number of Excel Centers. We also have vacant school buildings,” Goodwill Memphis CEO Tony Martini said.

The next Excel Center is planned for Crosstown Concourse, the former Sears building, when it opens in Fall 2016.

Excel provides child care on-site and offers free bus passes after students prove they’re serious about attending after two weeks.

In addition, each student is assigned a “life coach” to help students like Jonathan Smith.

“It’ll probably be difficult since I haven’t been in school a while," Smith said. “I’ll get the hang of it.”

Husband and wife Larry and Tonya Summers heard about Excel Center and decided to apply.

“I want to become a Registered Nurse and this is the first step on the way,” said Tonya, 49. Her 53-year-old husband has spent a career as a roofer but now wants an education to do different work.

Eric Cooper, Excel Center’s Director, people always ask children what they’re going to be when they grow up. During Excel Center orientation, Cooper says he asked the same question.

“Here we are at the adult level and I ask you again: what do you want to be when you grow up because the sky’s the limit.”

You can learn more about the Excel Center for Adult Learners at www.excelcentermemphis.org or by calling (901) 726-3100.

Copyright 2015 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved. 

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