When Alia Schleppenbach enrolled at The Excel Center in Lafayette in April 2016, she had no idea her mother would pass away just a few months later.

Alia left a private high school when she was 16 years old. She had been bullied by other students and could no longer handle the remarks. “I was a good student; I had good grades, “ she said. “But there was bullying. I was put down a lot.”

Now 18 years old, entering The Excel Center for the first time was a little intimidating to Alia. She walked with a cane at the time, and she wasn’t sure how she would be able to attend classes every day. Her life coach told her to start with online courses until she felt comfortable attending direct instruction classes. Alia was surprised that she could begin classes right away and did not have to wait. “I was excited to immediately jump back into school,” said Alia.

Eden, Alia’s younger sister, also faced struggles at the same high school. Eden dropped out shortly after Alia and desired a more supportive learning environment. She enrolled at The Excel Center in July 2016. “I really wanted to interact with people and everyone at The Excel Center is very welcoming and supportive. They really want the best for us, and that makes me really want it, too.”

Both girls enjoyed the enrollment process at The Excel Center. Instead of having to wait an entire semester to enroll after dropping out, Alia enrolled herself after meeting with the school office manager. Eden shadowed her sister for a day after hearing great things and enrolled a few months later. They felt instantly welcome at The Excel Center, but neither had any idea just how supportive their new teachers and coaches would be.

In November 2016, Eden and Alia’s mother passed away from cancer. The day of their mother’s passing, Eden received a message from her father, explaining their mother was not doing well at a hospital located over an hour away. “Our dad called us in the middle of English class and our coaches saw us and immediately jumped into action. One of the teachers pulled us out of class and drove us to Indy.”

Though the girls arrived too late to say goodbye to their mother, they were able to provide comfort to their other family members and each other. “We got there, we didn’t get there on time, but we still got to be there with my dad and other siblings,” Eden said. The girls took several days off school but were committed to finishing what they started at The Excel Center. They returned just a few days after their mother’s death.

The Excel Center offers students flexible class scheduling and recognizes the challenges that life often presents. Alia and Eden were able to leave class, spend time with family and return to school when they both felt ready. “The only reason we stayed and kept coming because they supported us and gave us time off,” said Alia.

“The Excel Center helped us realize that you are not your school work, you’re not your grades– you’re your own person,” said Alia.

Alia, who is maintaining a 3.9 GPA, earned the Certified Business Professional-Customer Service certification at The Excel Center, and she is on track to earn dual credits in English 111. She is on projected to graduate at the end of March.

Eden, who is maintaining a 3.8 GPA, is on track to earn dual credits in English 111 with plans to enroll in college after graduation. She is projected to graduate June 2017.

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