To listen to the Show Me Today interview with Dr. Eric Knost, click below (17:05).

MERS/Goodwill’s accredited adult high schools are offering Missouri students a chance to earn a diploma at no cost – and change their lives.

They can be found in Springfield, St. Louis, Poplar Bluff and Columbia. Since opening their doors in 2018, more than 600 students 21 years and older have graduated.

Dr. Eric Knost and students (Photos courtesy of Eric Knost)

Dr. Eric Knost, the incoming superintendent of the Excel Centers, said each student is assigned a life coach, can get help with housing and transportation, as well as on-site daycare.

“Life happens and life throws us curveballs,” he said. “We always hope that there’s another path we can travel to get us where we want to go and I think that’s what it provides. It really is a very meaningful and, I think, a highly needed program. It’s literally life changing, community changing, and it could just do some great things, and is doing some great things throughout state of Missouri.”

Students who attend one of the Excel Centers can earn college credits and a variety of industry-recognized certifications in order to increase their earning potential.

Knost said the demand for the schools continues to grow.

Dr. Eric Knost and students (Photos courtesy of Eric Knost)

“Every time they’ve opened a center, the projection that they’ve had in their minds of how many students will register and show up has always exceeded significantly. I heard one story about one center expecting somewhere between 50 and 80,” said Knost. “I think they ended up with 250 that registered. I think that the numbers will always be there and be greater probably than what is projected. They’ve hired an unbelievable number of people in short amounts of time to fulfill the needs of each center, so I think they try to adjust and I know that will definitely be our hope and our plans going forward.”

Speaking of going forward, there are plans to add four more schools in the near future – in north St. Louis County, Cape Girardeau and two others to be determined.

Knost is not a stranger to public education. Most recently, he served three years as Superintendent at the Lewis Central Community School District in Council Bluffs, Iowa. He was the Superintendent for five years at the Rockwood School District near St. Louis. He also served as Superintendent and Deputy Superintendent of the Mehlville School District in St. Louis County. In 2018, Knost was also in the running back for state education commissioner.

“All of my adult life I’ve worked in education jobs that there’s one goal and that’s to help others thrive,” he said. “Most of the time you’re helping children thrive but you’re also helping your colleagues thrive and you’re helping principals thrive and you’re helping teachers thrive and custodians and nurses and para educators. I don’t think it’s any different. It’s a different program with the same idea of helping people thrive. It just seems like a really good next step after 34 years. I love what it’s all about. I’ve always been an advocate for and had an interest in helping people that have barriers, helping people that otherwise may struggle to get over certain barriers. That’s what this program is all about – getting rid of those barriers to help people find a way to thrive the way they want to thrive and to get what they feel they need. It’s necessary to excel their life and it’s the Excel Centers. I just think it’s ideal for where I’m at in my career and in my life, and it’s just very fitting for the work that I’ve been doing.”

To find out more information about the schools, click here.

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