• The Excel Center staff and students celebrate the school’s fifth birthday and becoming the first school in Missouri to earn a Recovery Friendly Workplace designation.
  • Ann McCauley, director of Missouri’s Recovery Friendly Workplace program, presents Excel Center Director Mike Reynolds with the Recovery Friendly Workplace certificate.

COLUMBIA, Mo. – The MERS Missouri Goodwill Industries Excel Center in Columbia is the first school in Missouri to become a Recovery Friendly Workplace. This designation recognizes employers that promote workplace cultures that reduce stigma and provide recovery resources to address the challenges surrounding substance use disorders.

The Excel Center is one of six accredited tuition-free high schools in Missouri that help adults 21 and older obtain a high school diploma while also earning college credits and certifications.

In October 2023, the school completed the steps to earn the Recovery Friendly Workplace designation. Steps include training, planning and a statement of the organization’s support for employees and students in recovery.

University of Missouri Extension funds the initiative at no cost to recipients through a Rural Opioids Technical Assistance federal grant, said Ann McCauley, director of the Recovery Friendly Workplace program in Missouri.

Learn more about the Excel Center's Recovery Friendly Workplace designation in this episode of MU Extension's Show-Me MO Success podcast.

“The Excel Center’s support for those in recovery is phenomenal,” said McCauley, who presented the certificate during the school’s fifth birthday celebration. “This school changes lives for the better, and in doing so positively impacts its entire community. We hope that schools that have been reluctant to give people in recovery a second chance will hear the success stories from Excel and become recovery friendly, too.”

“Knowing that my school and the staff took their time to show the community that they are recovery friendly warms my heart,” said Kira Ritchie, who graduated in October. “I am thankful for everything this school and teachers have done to help me make it through.”

Another student, Amy Breese, credits her sobriety to the school’s recovery-friendly focus. “Through their support and love, the staff helps us gain the confidence that addiction took from us. By publicly announcing that they are recovery friendly, the Excel Center shows its students that they see us and will not turn their back on us.”

The Excel Center and similar adult high schools in St. Louis, Cape Girardeau, Florissant, Poplar Bluff and Springfield offer flexible class schedules, supportive relationships with staff and a life coach who works with students to overcome challenges that could hinder their progress. Free drop-in child care centers, transportation assistance, extended hours and year-round operation support students earning their diplomas.

“We are proud to support all our students as they work toward changing their lives and the lives of their families in a positive, productive way,” said Excel Center Director Mike Reynolds.

Abby Courtney, the Excel Center teacher and career and college coordinator who helped lead the school’s recovery friendly workplace designation, would like to see the other five schools qualify, too. “Becoming a recovery-friendly workplace is a public way to demonstrate what we have been doing all along. We show our students that they matter and that we will stick with them in good times and bad.”

For more information about the Recovery Friendly Workplace resources and designation, contact Ann McCauley and visit Recovery Friendly Workplace.