Chris Woods News
This article originally appeared in the Memphis Business Journal
Memphis Goodwill makes $3.1M property purchase for new location of Excel Center
One morning, Adrian Anderson woke up, and thought, I need to get my diploma.
He hadn’t completed high school, yet wanted a degree. So, Anderson posted an inquiry on Facebook, asking who could help him with this. And he was redirected to The Excel Center, an organization run by Memphis Goodwill Inc., which holds classes for adults who dropped out of or didn’t finish high school.
He enrolled, and, once he completed the program, Anderson was conferred his degree.
“When they announced that we’re about to actually get our diploma, there was an excitement, an overjoy, a spirt that came over me,” he said in a video made by Goodwill. “I started from nothing, and I ended up with my diploma. … This right here was a stepping stone for me.”
Anderson — who’s gone on to enroll in undergraduate courses at University of Memphis, and a mid-management course at Southwest Tennessee Community College — is far from the only student helped by The Excel Center here.
Goodwill has 31 Excel Center’s nationwide, and it launched the Memphis location in 2015.
Through a partnership with Shelby County Schools (SCS), it offers free, flexible, and accelerated in-person classes that pick up where former students left off in high school. Terms are eight weeks long, and participants are provided with assistance to make the courses more accessible, such as on-site childcare and MATA bus passes.
If students complete the necessary coursework, they graduate and receive their high school diploma. So far, The Excel Center has bustled; it’s worked with more than 5,000 students since its inception, and, as of June, has had more than 800 graduates — 86% of whom are now employed or enrolled in college.
But, the program’s efforts have also put it in need of a different space, as the current location at 1490 Norris Road — formerly an elementary school — isn’t ideal. The Excel Center is growing, and the building wasn’t designed with adult students in mind.
“It worked for us for several years, but we really outgrew the building,” Ursula Roman, senior director of marketing and communications for Goodwill Memphis, told MBJ. “Parking was an issue; they were having to park down the street. … And the restrooms were set up like elementary restrooms. All of that hadn’t been renovated.”
According to a deed filed with the Shelby County Register, however, Goodwill Memphis purchased the property at 2576 Thousand Oaks Boulevard for $3.1 million — and Roman said this will become the new site of The Excel Center.
A 31,000 square foot space that sits on seven acres, the Thousand Oaks property is the former location of National College, and it’s far more suited to fit the organization’s needs. Parking is plentiful. There are computers already set up, and science labs.
That’s not to say the building is perfect as is. The Excel Center is doing renovation work, which includes expanding the student lounge area, as well as office and administrative spaces. Fleming Associates is the architect for the project, while Chris Woods Construction is the contractor. A building permit valued at nearly $100,000 was pulled in January.
The goal is for the work to be completed in September, so students can be welcomed into the building for the Fall term that starts Sept. 27.
“We’re really excited about it,” Roman said. “It just has much better layout [than the current space]. … There are more opportunities for adult students.”