Goodwill Industries of the Valleys

Commonwealth’s First Adult High School Approved by VDOE for The Excel Center

Housed at Melrose Plaza, the school will be run by Goodwill Industries of the Valleys

Roanoke, Va. – In a monumental step forward for Virginia adults lacking a high school diploma, Goodwill Industries of the Valleys announced approval from the Virginia Department of Education to operate the first adult high school in the Commonwealth. The Excel Center allows adults to finish high school courses in a supportive environment while simultaneously earning industry-recognized workforce credentials.

More than 670,000 adults in Virginia do not have a high school diploma. Lack of a high school diploma is connected to decreased income, decreased life expectancy, and increased health concerns for the individual. At the community level, high dropout rates lead to less spending and tax revenue while increasing public costs for crime, health, and public assistance.

The Excel Center will address barriers for adult students by providing wraparound services that include childcare, transportation services, and college and career navigation.

“We know there are many Virginians who are missing only one or two classes to earn their high school diploma. A GED isn’t as logical for these students because of the time and monetary investment required. The Excel Center creates another option for students. At the Excel Center, students will take advantage of accelerated coursework and smaller classes to expedite their learning,” said Zenith Barrett, vice president of business and community engagement.

Courses are offered at an accelerated pace and at times that accommodate working students. Based in Roanoke, Virginia, Goodwill Industries of the Valleys is the first Goodwill in the Commonwealth to offer an adult high school. Designed as a cornerstone of Melrose Plaza, the Excel Center is part of Goodwill’s greater initiative to address poverty, healthcare concerns and food accessibility in Roanoke.

“Addressing economic disparities, community health, and quality of life concerns must first begin with education,” said Goodwill Valleys CEO Richmond Vincent, Jr. “The Excel Center aims to address this concern for residents in the Roanoke Valley.”

“If we want to help create a brighter future for our students, we have to do more than help them achieve their diploma,” said Barrett. “We have to support them as they envision new opportunities and a new career path.”

“Goodwill has a long-standing history of helping people connect to jobs and career paths in the community,” said Vincent. “The Excel Center builds on our successful career assistance programs by helping job seekers get the credentials that they need in order to be in high demand.”

Planning for the Excel Center started in 2023, with legislative action to allow adult high schools in Virginia.

“State law had to change in order to allow for an adult high school to exist,” said Barrett. “It was a simple amendment to state code that opened doors for more than 600,000 adults in Virginia without a high school diploma. We hope that our model can be emulated throughout the state to benefit every community.”

The Excel Center is an evidence-based, proven educational model that has been used by Goodwill centers across the country since 2010, helping adults earn their high school diplomas and workforce credentials.

“This will be the first Excel Center in Virginia, and we are looking forward to expanding the model in other areas where high dropout rates are having an impact on the local economy,” said Barrett.

“The Excel Center is one vital step forward in ensuring a brighter future for Virginians,” said Vincent.


Press Kit with Interview Clips and Logos

About The Excel Center®

The Excel Center® is a free adult high school that aims to create opportunities for adults who did not graduate from high school. The program allows students to complete high school coursework while earning workforce credentials and ensures student success by addressing barriers for adult students and providing wraparound services such as childcare, transportation services, and college and career navigation. The Excel Center is an evidence-based, proven educational model that has been used by Goodwill centers across the United States since 2010.

About Melrose Plaza
Melrose Plaza is a first-of-its-kind resource center and cultural hub located in Northwest Roanoke, a community previously decimated by urban renewal. Melrose Plaza aims to rejuvenate the community by addressing health disparities, educational opportunities, financial empowerment, and access to affordable healthy foods. The four anchor initiatives of Melrose Plaza will provide jobs and resources to uplift the entire community.

About Goodwill Industries of the Valleys Goodwill Industries of the Valleys serves 35 counties and 14 cities throughout Central, Southwest, and Southside Virginia. Our vision to eliminate poverty is fueled by our mission of empowering individuals, strengthening families, and inspiring communities. Your donations and shopping allow Goodwill to provide skills training, job placement, and support services to help people achieve their fullest potential. Visit for more information.

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