New adult high school headed to Springfield in 2019

Published: Jan. 24, 2018 at 4:54 AM CST
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MERS Goodwill, the branch that covers Missouri and southern Illinois, has won a contract with Missouri’s Department of Secondary and Elementary Education to open four adult high schools. Each will be known as an Excel Center.

The Assistant Vice President of the MERS Goodwill branch in Springfield, Liz Drennan, said as teams did research they recognized the need for more adult high schools in the show-me state. “We recognized that there were almost 500-thousand individuals over the age of 21 that didn't have a high school diploma and those statistics are very concerning,” said Drennan.

Drennan said the Springfield Excel Center will be the last of the four to open in September of 2019. The first is scheduled to open in St. Louis in October. Schools will enroll anywhere from 100 to 300 students over the age of 21, and charge no tuition. The school will offer 90-minute courses from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and provide free child care. All the Excel Centers will follow the same template, molded after a program already being done in Indianapolis. In addition to Springfield and St. Louis, the other Excel Center locations are Poplar Bluff and Columbia.

Drennan describes the set up as something much more than a simple adult high school. “We are providing additional support to accommodate for all kinds of students that are going to come in the door,” she said. “We will have working students, we may have single parents, we have on site free child-care so that way it allows them to study independently without interruption." Drennan also mentioned there would be life coaches for the students to help them navigate and stay on track.

Some people disagree with the creation of these centers. To that, Drennan has one message. "I'd say wait and see, we’re going to make such an impact on this community and I think our employers are excited about this,” Drennan said. “This will open so many doors,” he continued. “Evidence will be the proof and a lot of good stories are going to come out of this."

Future students will not need a referral to attend the Excel Centers either, unlike their current services offered at Goodwill Career Centers. The Goodwill Career Center is focused on providing opportunities through the power of work. Drennan explained how people with disabilities will go to the state vocational rehabilitation system and identify that they need help getting back into the workforce. Next, Drennan said, those people are refereed to Goodwill’s services. “We will do all the planning with that state agency and we will kind of take the reins from there.”

Drennan said she feels the enrollment for these adult high schools will fill up quickly. "The need is there and we don't want to miss out on people." If people either want to look into registration or help on the administrative side of things, Drennan said the best option is to start with their website or call the corporate office at 314-982-8802