Meet Jon & Marissa

Goodwill Excel Center Graduates

“They helped us out with the daycare, and that’s why we were able to go. That’s how we ended up going to school there.”

Not long ago, Marissa Franco and Jonathan Castillo were stuck either working in dead-end jobs or struggling to find work.  The two high-school sweethearts and their young son were living with family and felt like they’d never be financially independent.  Just making it day to day was hard; trying to get ahead of the game was even harder, and trying to reach any goals or dreams they’d once had seemed impossible.

The couple, who had always gone to school together, were both close to graduating.  But, as so often happens, life threw a couple of curve-balls and circumstances prevented either from finishing high school.    “We were almost done…but it didn’t work out,” said Marissa. The ultimate catalyst for the couple was the birth of their son. “I decided to go back after I had my first child and, out of nowhere, John started acting like he was interested in it, too,” said Marissa, continuing, “John wasn’t a school person or anything like that, but he said he wanted to do it for our son.”  Marissa and Jonathan made the joint decision that it was time to go back to school and complete their education so they could be better parents–and that is what finally led them to the Goodwill Excel Center.

Lack of daycare had been one of the main obstacles to finishing high school and was a major concern of the couple.  Their problem was quickly solved by the Goodwill Excel Center, which offered them the chance to stay in school and earn a diploma while getting help with the daily responsibilities of parenthood.  “They helped us out with the daycare, and that’s why we were able to go,” said Marissa. “That’s how we ended up going to school there.” With new childcare resources in place, a customized graduation plan, and support from the Goodwill Excel Center life coaches and teachers, Marissa and Jonathan were able to walk across the stage together as proud members of the Class of 2018.

Marissa and Jonathan are now excited about future.  They’ve had a new baby boy since graduation, moved into their own new apartment, and are saving to buy their first home.  Jonathan, now working as a sous chef at a well-known Italian restaurant, is one step closer to his dream of being a gourmet chef.  Marissa has a new job, too.  Just like Jonathan, Marissa has her own personal goal—she wants to pursue a career as an elementary school teacher.  Its one of the many goals she’s set for herself.  “I’m going to try to pursue going to school again starting next year, although I might end up starting sooner,” said Marissa.

The Goodwill Excel Center recognizes that second-chance learners, like Marissa and Jonathan, are eager and motivated to make a change.  Their mission is to provide adults aged 18 and older the opportunity and support to earn a high school diploma and begin post-secondary education while developing career paths in sectors of the local economy that offer better-than-average employment and growth opportunities.