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Excel Center, UIndy celebrate shared vision

Manuel - Excel CenterUIndy President Robert Manuel speaks Tuesday at a ribbon cutting for the Excel Center’s University Heights location. Looking on are (left) Kent Kramer, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana; Scott Bess, president and COO of Goodwill Education Initiatives; and Erika Haskins, director of the school, which provides high school education and other services to adult students.

One of UIndy’s important new neighborhood partners officially celebrated its arrival Tuesday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony that included President Robert Manuel.

The Excel Center, Goodwill Industries’ network of charter high schools for adult students, opened its University Heights location this fall at Hanna and Madison avenues, in space leased from UIndy. It now serves more than 300 students and already has helped eight to earn their overdue high school diplomas.

Excel Center schools provide tuition-free education designed for students who often are balancing work, family and school while struggling to make ends meet. One key to their success is the broad support provided to students, including free drop-in child care, transportation assistance, year-round operation and extended hours including nights and weekends.

“What I’m impressed by are the wrap-around services you have, so that any obstacle you have to getting through has some kind of support to get you there,” Manuel told the audience of students, community leaders and Goodwill executives. “When you leave, you are going to have skills and education and more importantly mindset that are going to make you successful.”

He also encouraged future graduates to continue their education at the nearby University of Indianapolis.

“I hope when you leave you’re going to go out the door and make a left, because there’s a whole set of buildings over there that will be waiting for you if you’re interested,” he said.

Scott Bess, president and COO of Goodwill Education Initiatives, said UIndy has been not just a landlord but a true partner in helping to establish the school and sharing its vision of enhancing quality of life in the neighborhood. UIndy students already are providing tutoring and other services to the Excel students, he noted, and the university’s presence reinforces the message of continuing education.

“I cannot wait to see an Excel Center graduate from University Heights walk across the UIndy stage as a four-year graduate of the University of Indianapolis,” Bess said. “And that doesn’t happen without leadership and without vision, and I’m really proud to say that we have a partner in the University of Indianapolis and a partner in the leadership of the university that has that kind of vision.”