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New High School Offers Free Education For Adults

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The nonprofit that runs Goodwill is scheduled to open a high school for adults next month. MERS Goodwill is launching a school called the Goodwill Excel Center in Columbia that will allow people 21 and older to earn a high school diploma, rather than a GED. In addition, the school will also offer life coaching, workplace certification and child care for parents who cannot leave their children at home. All of these services will be provided to students at no cost to themselves.

The Excel Center is the fourth to open in Missouri, with previous locations opening in St. Louis, Springfield and Poplar Bluff. Fifty-six students have graduated thus far from them, according to Mark Arens, executive vice president/chief of program services for MERS Goodwill. He expects that there will be 30 more graduates by October.

Mike Reynolds, former superintendent of Glasgow School District, will be directing the school. He hopes that potential students on the fence about registering will see that the Excel Center is more than a place to repeat high school.

“I think if you talk to our adults… I hope that they’re gonna be able to tell you that this is not the experience they had once upon a time,” Reynolds said. “This is a team that’s setting aside their time to help them get those credits they need, and, just as importantly, get them the job skills to get into the world and be a productive member of our society.”

Arens echoed this sentiment when he recounted a meeting he had with Dr. Peter Stiepleman, superintendent of Columbia Public Schools.

“[We] felt very encouraged, felt very welcome, were really impressed with how he and his team realized that this project does dovetail very closely with a lot of their efforts… we can attack poverty and lack of education, and maybe lack of employment on a multi-generational level. As Columbia School District is working with kids, we’re very much then working with their parents.”

The Goodwill Excel Center will open at 101 N. Fourth St., the former location of the Columbia Daily Tribune.