Thanks to its various social services programs, the reach of Goodwill Industries extends far beyond its thrift stores. The organization uses the money it generates from sales of donated items to help people improve their lives and become valuable members of their communities.
With much of its focus on ensuring that individuals are positioned for future success, Goodwill has had education as one of its programming priorities since it first launched well over a century ago. Today, the nonprofit group remains focused on providing valuable learning opportunities for people of all ages.
Here are some of the top ways that Goodwill promotes education in the hundreds of communities it serves throughout the United States:
Providing Free Learning Opportunities
One of Goodwill’s most accessible learning programs is offered at GCFLearnFree.org, a free educational website launched by the Goodwill Community Foundation and Goodwill Industries of Eastern NC Inc. On the site, visitors can access a library of more than 2,000 lessons covering over 180 topics in areas such as technology, literacy, and math. To enhance each lesson, the site also features over 800 educational videos and 55 interactive games and activities.
Some of the academic topics covered at GCFLearnFree include basic addition and subtraction, English grammar, algebra, and reading. Much of the site, however, is focused on helping people build 21st-century skills. The subjects taught in this area range from computer basics and email to digital photography, cloud computing, and graphic design. In addition, GCFLearnFree includes a number of tutorials on Microsoft Office programs.
Along with the tech tutorials and lessons in reading and math, the site provides resources for career support and everyday living. The tutorials and interactive lessons in these areas focus on career planning, job search, and money management. Lessons on work skills, food and cooking, and health and safety are also available.
Educating Adults Who Are Pursuing Their High School Diplomas
While recent statistics show a reduction in high school dropout rates nationwide, approximately 30 million American adults are still without diplomas, and another 3 million people drop out each year. Goodwill organizations throughout the country are doing their part to help these individuals finish their high school education by providing various programs and resources in local communities.
Many Goodwill locations oversee adult learning centers or provide no-cost adult education classes that prepare adult learners for the GED exam. In Indiana, which has one of the highest dropout rates in the country, Goodwill Industries, Inc., launched The Excel Center, a tuition-free public high school for adults. With drop-in childcare, supportive staff, and flexible scheduling that includes both day and night classes, The Excel Center is designed specifically for adults working to earn their diplomas while keeping up with work and family responsibilities.
The success of the original Center site in Indianapolis led Goodwill to open additional locations in Indiana along with other sites in Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Washington, DC. In the Indiana location’s first decade, more than 3,000 adults earned their high school diplomas through The Goodwill Excel Center. Nearly all (97 percent) of the Center’s graduates also went on to earn college credits or job-related certifications.
3. Ensuring Young People Have the Knowledge and Skills to Succeed
In addition to assisting adult learners, Goodwill organizations nationwide work with various community partners to promote youth education. Examples include Goodwill Industries of Denver, which works with several area schools to educate and prepare at-risk students for their future careers. The organization’s youth programs provide education and training in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects. Goodwill of Denver also provides mentoring to help students prepare for and succeed in college.
Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Michigan (SEMI) is another organization that is dedicated to helping local youth. Over the years, SEMI has partnered with businesses and other nonprofits to support community literacy projects. In 2017, the organization distributed more than 7.5 tons of children’s books throughout the community. SEMI also helps lead the Read to Feed program, which provides books for area schools that collect food for local food pantries.
Leading the Way in Career-Related Education
As part of its efforts to help people overcome barriers to employment, Goodwill Industries directs a large percentage of its resources toward career-related education. At the Goodwill Career and Technical Academy in Austin, Texas, individuals can pursue career certifications in numerous industries, including health care, technology, and business. The Academy also offers accelerated certification programs in skilled construction trades.
Alongside local work-related programs, Goodwill oversees several national initiatives to educate American workers. Many of Goodwill’s activities in recent years have focused on equipping people with the digital skills needed in the modern workforce.
In 2017, the organization launched the Goodwill Digital Career Accelerator, a Google-funded initiative that will ultimately help over 1 million people learn computer support, programming, and other tech-related skills. Goodwill is also partnering with Google and Coursera to help prepare people age 17 and older for careers in IT support.