Two well-known organizations are opening charter schools in Gary next fall, both designed to help adults earn their high school diplomas.
Goodwill Industries, which has branches across the country, is opening a second Excel Center in Gary. With Excel Centers in Indianapolis and other parts of the country, Goodwill opened an Excel Center in Hammond last fall.
The Hammond center, with an enrollment of some 250 students, will host its first graduation at the Hammond Civic Center on June 7 with 15 students earning their diploma.
The Indianapolis-based GEO Foundation is opening a second Gary Middle College on the west side of the city, with a proposed enrollment of 200 students. The GEO Foundation also operates 21st Century Charter School in Gary.
Over the past five years, GEO Foundation founder and President Kevin Teasley said Gary Middle College has graduated 248 people, some with college credit and others with a job.
The Excel Center
Cindy Cavanaugh, vice president of the Excel Centers, said they intend to open the new charter school at a temporary location in the fall. She said Goodwill Industries is negotiating with officials to temporarily use the Ivy Tech Community College Northwest building in Gary.
She said they'd like to set up 12 or 13 classrooms, along with a Kids Excel, an education center for the children of Excel students. It is expected to open in September.
Goodwill Industries is planning to invest $8 million to build its own Excel Center in Gary, along with a complex for a variety of Goodwill operations.
Goodwill Industries has scheduled a groundbreaking ceremony for its Gary campus at 1 p.m. June 4 at the corner of Ridge and Clark roads.
The construction project will bring 100 jobs to the Region and a nearly $9 million annual economic impact to the community, officials said.
Goodwill’s 105,000-square-foot Gary campus will feature its first Outlet Store, with most items sold by the pound, and a donation drive-thru. It also will include the charter school, as well as a Community Career Center, which will offer free job search assistance for anyone seeking employment.
Debie Coble, CEO and president of Goodwill of Michiana Inc., said the Gary campus is an example of Goodwill’s continued commitment to bring services to the Region for those seeking employment.
Goodwill Industries officials said it has a proven success record for training, and 2015 statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau point to the need for people to earn a high school diploma.
Statistics show that 51,753 adults in Lake County do not have a high school diploma; that's followed by 12,386 in LaPorte County and 11,406 in Porter County.
Excel Center graduates receive a Core 40 Diploma and college credits or industry certification.
Cavanaugh said the director of the Gary Excel Center will be Theresa Knipe, a former life coach at the Hammond center.
Gary Middle College
Teasley said they are calling the new charter school Gary Middle College West. He said that the GEO Foundation purchased the former Brunswick Library at 4030 W. Fifth Ave., which was permanently closed Oct. 1, 2016.
"We bought the building in February, and we will begin renovations inside because we need to build classrooms," he said. "We will start with 200 students, and we expect to draw students from Gary, Hammond and East Chicago."
Teasley said he didn't want to have one large school with 400 students. He said he wanted to keep both schools small and manageable.
He said Joe Arredondo, who is principal at Gary Middle College, will oversee both campuses.
Gary Middle College West will open Aug. 1.
Teasley said administrators are interested in making sure that students are not just getting career certification but also college experience and college degrees.
"Our goal is for them to get an associate degree," he said. "This population has been focused on getting their high school diplomas, and we want them to go beyond that. We're focused on making sure that our students graduate with a minimum of three college credits."