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Dropouts will get 2nd chance at education

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A map of the Memphis area shows the areas around the city with the most high school dropouts. A map of the Memphis area shows the areas around the city with the most high school dropouts.
Now, a group from Indianapolis will help Memphis start an Excel program. Now, a group from Indianapolis will help Memphis start an Excel program.
MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC-TV) - The Mid-South has an alarming high school dropout rate. But a new organization is hoping to change that and give adults a second chance at education, which could lead to more jobs.

A map of the Memphis area shows the areas around the city with the most high school dropouts. On Monday, Goodwill Industries International announced a plan to help change those numbers.

Every day, Anthony Gain takes the bus to and from work. He is happy to have a job, thanks to his education.

"I graduated back in 1984," he said.

But not everyone is so lucky, in fact, a large number of Memphians are without a high school diploma.

"Once you've dropped out you can't go back," said Scott Bess, Goodwill Indianapolis.

In Memphis, only 69 percent of seniors graduate. About 7,200 students drop out of school each year.

The plan announced by Goodwill on Monday should help to turn those numbers around.

"It's a charter school for adults. That's what it is, a charter school to help people who dropped out of high school and never graduated to get a diploma and to help them into life, with life coaches," said Goodwill President and CEO Tony Martini.

The program is called Excel. It started in Indianapolis, Indiana in 2010. In three years, Indianapolis established nine sites with more than 3,000 students.

Goodwill found that there was not just a need for education, but a demand.

"This is all about giving people an opportunity. If you don't have a high school diploma, you can't even get to the interview, you can't even sell yourself. If you don't check the box you're out of luck," said Martini.

Now, the group from Indianapolis will help Memphis start an Excel program.

Next year, a charter school application will be filed. By 2014, the group plans to host its first Memphis Goodwill Excel Center classes.

"It allows them to get in the door and then we give them the skill base so that once we get them in the door it allows them to succeed and then they get to fully participate in all the economic development that's in the city," said Bess.

The program is something Anthony Gain thinks will only make the community of Memphis better.

"That's what it needs, it needs something to help people to better themselves, especially African-Americans," said Gain.

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