One School at a Time: Excel Center in South Bend wins Martin’s grant

Published: May. 26, 2023 at 6:16 PM EDT
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - It’s graduation season, and we want to give a shout out to all the grads in Michiana!

Among them are several adults who will receive their high school diplomas from the Excel Center in South Bend!

Run by Goodwill, the free high school helps people over 18 finish their Indiana Core 40 diplomas. The charter school also helps with transportation and childcare.

To help the center, Martin’s Super Markets is awarding it a $1,000 “One School at a Time” grant.

When 2-year-old Omara plays at the Excel Center, her mom is often just a few feet away. 27-year-old Sierra Belle decided to go back to school after dropping out in ninth grade. She uses the Kids Excel program, the school’s childcare facility.

“I’ve been here since my daughter was six months,” Sierra says. “And she just turned two. So, it’s definitely changed my life for the better.”

Dr. Chris Alber, the vice president of the Excel Center, says the program helps people finish what they started.

“A lot of times, people get a GED, and they think they are not eligible for a diploma, but you can,” he says. “So, anybody who is 18 and up can come to us and they can earn their Core 40 high school diploma. If they have obstacles, we try to remove those obstacles.”

The school was nominated for the Martin’s grant by student Kim Herron.

“They’ve really helped me a lot trying to get my high school diploma,” she says. “Teaching me life skills and helping me out when I needed things like food and clothes. And housing information and stuff.”

She wants the grant money to support the childcare center. Dr. Alber says it will help with materials and supplies.

“That thousand dollars, we’re very grateful for that because it can be utilized for our students,” he says.

No matter where they are on their journey.

“For a while, I never could see myself coming back to school,” Sierra says. “And once after I had my daughter, I was like, ‘You know? I’ve got to go back.’ And here I am two years later, and I’m graduating.”

The Excel Center’s graduation will be held next Wednesday, May 31. After graduation, Sierra plans to enroll in Ivy Tech’s forensics program.

Congratulations to Sierra and the Excel Center class of 2023!

If you would like to nominate your school for a Martin’s Super Market One School at a Time grant, click here for the entry form.

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