The education system in Arkansas has faced national criticism for decades, if not generations. Ironically, a few math equations add even more perspective. Do you know 14 people? Two of them dropped out of high school and never went back.
Let that sink in a moment. That’s two people you know who are unable to apply for jobs that have one single requirement—a high school diploma. According to government statistics, those two people you know only qualify for 27% of jobs. And if any of those jobs are actually hiring, they pay around $10,000 less a year than jobs that require a diploma. Can you imagine how difficult it would be to support yourself or a family on $20,800 a year? That’s what minimum wage jobs pay, and that is IF you’re able to find full-time employment.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not all doom and gloom, but it illustrates the need for access to education. Many people might not even know it is an issue. I want you to know how it’s impacting lives.
If you don’t like math, you can skip the bullet points and just trust me. But for you math folks, here is how I came up with the numbers, which admittedly surprised me as well:
· There are around 3,017,000 people in Arkansas.
· Around 73% of Arkansans are over age 18.
· 315,000 adults in Arkansas did not graduate high school.
· 315,000 is 13.5% of Arkansas’s adult population of approximately 2,202,410 people.
· 2 is just about 13.5% of 14.
(Numbers gathered from U.S. Census and Dept. of Labor data)
Recognizing the systemic problem of high school graduation rates, Goodwill Industries of Arkansas opened the state’s only fully accredited, tuition-free high school for adults in 2017—The Excel Center. Yes, it’s literally the only place in the state where adults can finish their education at no charge and earn a diploma. To date, 42 men and women have graduated.
Despite the statistics, many of you probably don’t think you know anyone without a diploma. You could be right, but then again, it could be that it’s just not something they openly share. I personally have met several people who dropped out of high school, and they all had different reasons. Some admittedly fell in with the wrong crowd. I know a few women who had babies and could no longer go to school while taking care of them. I also know a man who was once a rising football star, but an injury forced him from the team and led to a feeling of defeat.
One thing they all have in common, they regret dropping out of high school. By dropping out, they have trouble finding jobs. They never got to experience prom or walking across the graduation stage. They have a hard time making their children understand the importance of education.
With few signs Arkansas’s high school graduation rate is improving, Goodwill continues to work to provide educational opportunities and help Arkansans overcome obstacles that might get in their way. Classes are led by highly qualified teachers. There is an on-site childcare center, which is free! There is also transportation assistance available, life coaches and tutors!
The Excel Center is located in Little Rock, and more campuses could be opening over the next five years. Construction is also close to wrapping up on a school expansion. So, there is hope the numbers will soon be coming down, and those two people you know will become one, and then hopefully zero.
Help start to process. Tell your two friends about The Excel Center. Call 501-444-2351 for enrollment information or visit GoodwillAR.org/Excel.