Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

May 18, 2013

Charter school to open in August

Excel Center Kokomo caters to high school dropouts.

By Lindsey Ziliak
Tribune staff writer

— Goodwill Education Initiatives will unveil the area’s first charter school for high school dropouts Aug. 15 in downtown Kokomo.

Contractors are already renovating the school’s 101 W. Superior St. building to prepare for the Excel Center Kokomo opening, said Marquisha Bridgeman, marketing director for Goodwill Education Initiatives of Central Indiana.

The school will have room for 320 students.

According to data provided by Goodwill, there are dropouts in the community to sustain the school for years to come. There are 11,950 Kokomo adults within 10 miles of the city’s center who do not have a high school diploma, the data shows.

Site Director Nick Parks said the school’s downtown location is ideal.

“Being right in the downtown area, it will give our students direct access to the trolley line,” he said.

That’s important. Bridgeman said the Excel Center’s target population often struggles with basic needs like transportation, food and housing.

Part of the Excel Center mission is to help students meet those basic needs so they can focus on their education.

“We’re working with students to overcome barriers that may prevent them from coming to school,” Parks said. “We take everything else out of the picture so they can just focus on school.”

The school provides students with life coaches to help with those barriers. The coaches can help their students find housing and transportation or connect them with job opportunities in the area.

The school will operate on a year-round schedule, and staff will be available from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Traditional classes will be held until 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, with staff available after hours to work with students who operate on a non-traditional schedule. Parks said Fridays are reserved for students who want to come in for additional support.

The school also provides free child care and helps students create portfolios with resumes, references and character evaluations before they graduate.

Students at the charter school graduate with a Core 40 diploma and at least one dual credit college course or career certification that the school pays for.

Officials at the Kokomo site have already hired half of the needed staff and are working on facility upgrades. Now, enrolling students is a top priority, Bridgeman said.

She and Parks have been meeting with agencies like the Kokomo Rescue Mission, United Way and the Kokomo Housing Authority to help recruit students. They’ve also been speaking at churches throughout the community.

One student sought them out. Jay Adkins voiced his support for the charter school during a public hearing Oct. 2.

“I’m really wanting my high school diploma,” he said then. “You’re never too old.”

Bridgeman said Adkins has already enrolled and will be in school for the first day of classes Aug. 15.

“People are hesitant at first,” she said. “Then they’re excited.”

Want to attend?

Anyone wishing to enroll in Excel Center Kokomo should call 888-959-9062 or visit www.excelcenter.org. The school also will host an open house from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday at the United Way building on Walnut Street between Buckeye and Washington streets. Refreshments will be provided.

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