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Daily Memphian
Goodwill Excel Center shifts model to benefit adult students
November 21, 2018
By Dr. Mary C. McDonald

There really is no such thing as “one size fits all,” especially when it comes to education. The needs and life circumstance vary from student to student. For adults who dropped out of high school for whatever reason and want to earn a high school diploma, Goodwill Excel Center and Shelby County Schools have worked the past few years to determine the exact fit for those students.

Goodwill Excel Center was founded in 2015 by Goodwill Industries Education Initiatives Inc. as an SCS charter school, but the charter school criteria never fit. Excel students range in age from 18 to 84 years. Most attend part-time according to their work schedule, and their need for credits to graduate vary. However, as a charter school, they were assessed on traditional high school standards of achievement.

In October, the Shelby County Schools board approved the conversion of the Goodwill Excel Center-Memphis from a charter school to a contract school, working in partnership with Shelby County Schools, making GECM only the second contract school in the SCS system, along with the Campus School at the University of Memphis.

This designation was granted due to the special circumstances of the student population at the GECM. Students now will be monitored and scored as adult students rather than traditional-age high school students attending school full-time.

“We have an adult business model for adults striving to achieve their high school diplomas, sometimes many years after they dropped out,” said Tony Martini, executive director of Goodwill Industries. “We would have been forced to cease operations July 1, 2019. Now our vision and mission can continue to grow and flourish and change lives in fundamental ways for the many citizens of Shelby County for whom this was once just a dream.”

Martini praised the commitment of the leadership and staff of GWEC, the GWEC board, the SCS board, and state Rep. Mark White, among others, who recognized the need for this new paradigm and worked tirelessly to make it a reality. He gave special recognition to Chuck Molinksi, vice president of the Excel Center; Candis Dawson, school director of Norris Road campus; and associates at Goodwill Educational Initiatives in Indianapolis, whose dedication to this project help it to succeed.

Molinski, whose prior professional career was in the corporate world as a COO and CFO for several companies, including 16 years with Coca-Cola, sees his work in the nonprofit sector as a mission.

“Our students have the ability, they just need the confidence that we provide through our life coaches,” Molinski said. “Our coaches understand the barriers the students have and help them overcome them.”

Along with the outstanding and rigorous curriculum, the Excel Center also provides on-site child care, bus passes, and day and evening classes, and there is no tuition. The nearly 400 students who have graduated to date do so prepared for the workforce as well as for post-secondary education and certifications.

The Goodwill Excel Center is now the perfect fit for those who need the type of education they provide.

Contact Dr. Mary C. McDonald, a national education consultant, at 574-2956 or visit

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