MEMPHIS, Tennessee — Exceling in life, no matter the age or previous setbacks.
That's the mission of The Excel Center in southeast Memphis, which gives new hope and new training for those who left high school before graduation.
The center looks to give those older than 18 another chance to get a diploma, move on to college, or get a jump on skills for a wider range of higher paying jobs. The free program also includes flexible morning, afternoon, or evening class schedules and free child care.
For some recent graduates or soon to be graduates, the dream for a diploma never died and never diminished, no matter the age.
That includes 45-year-old Yolanda Joseph, who fulfilled her lifelong dream and graduated from The Excel Center 26 years after she dropped out of high school.
"It makes me feel so good to know things that I had to endure," Joseph said.
"It's exciting to know that I'm getting closer," Charles Kilpatrick added.
Kilpatrick, who left high school in 2017, is among the next group scheduled to graduate next month, with goals of becoming a heavy machine operator.
"It's taught me that life has no limits. If you believe you can do it. Keep going for it, don't stop. Keep shooting for what you believe in," Kilpatrick said.
Whether it's math achievement or tips to write a resume, The Excel Center aims to cut down on the 120,000 people in Shelby County without a high school diploma, while preparing them for the many jobs requiring a diploma.
"It helps our city as a whole because now our students are able to fill those open vacancies in partners such as FedEx, Amazon. We have Ford coming to the Mid-South," Candis Dawson-Taylor said.
As for Joseph, she's now a criminal justice major at Southwest Tennessee Community College and offered a message to those who started high school, didn't finish but haven't lost hope.
"It's never too late to try. It's never too late to learn. It's never too late to do anything you put your mind to," Joseph added.
The amount of time it takes to graduate from The Excel Center varies, depending on what grade a person left high school.
The next session begins Monday, December 6th, and you have until December 3rd to register. If you are interested in signing up, you can do so at: www.excelcentermemphis.org.