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Excel Center graduates 32 students

Wilder Carbajal-Perez overcame the language barrier to receive his Core 40 High School Diploma at the Excel Center graduation Thursday evening. He said he did it because he wanted to set a good example for his two daughters.

By HANNAH GUNNELL - hgunnell@shelbynews.com

Wilder Carbajal-Perez immigrated to the United States from Mexico in 2004 to give himself a better future.

When he first arrived, he spoke no English. He came to Shelbyville to live with a cousin, and began taking English courses at Blue River Career Center. Some of his coworkers helped him learn English as well by correcting him when needed.

“I was afraid to speak sometimes because I was afraid of being made fun of, but I left my fear behind and I decided to give it my all,” he said.

Carbajal-Perez has worked at PK USA for ten years, starting from the bottom and working his way up. He now works as a tool and die maker.

He married his wife in 2013 and had two daughters by 2016. He said he wanted to set a good example for his children by getting a United States high school education.

Now, he is one of 32 students the Shelbyville Excel Center graduated Thursday evening at the Strand Theatre.

The Excel Center is Goodwill of Central and Southern Indiana’s high school for adults. Students who never finished high school can attend the Excel Center to receive a Core 40 High School Diploma. The Excel Center also offers an IT Fundamentals Certification and the ability to become a Certificated Clinical Medical Assistant.

In order to obtain his Core 40 diploma, Carbajal-Perez had to switch his working hours from 4 a.m. to noon, so he could still work a full shift to support his family and also have time to take courses in the afternoon. Then he would go home and study for hours just to pass his tests.

“I just kept telling myself to keep pushing because in the end, everything would be worth it,” he said to his graduating class. “As I stand here tonight, I can say that it was really worth the time and effort.”

Other graduates took advantage of the free child care the Excel Center offers. In addition to child care, the Excel Center offers life coaches, flexible scheduling, accelerated coursework, transportation assistance and year-round classes. It does this because it wants to eliminate barriers to receiving an education, according to a press release.

“I don’t think some of them could’ve done it without the child care and life coaches to encourage them to overcome the obstacles,” said Khalilah Palmer, director of the Excel Center.

In addition to earning a Core 40 diploma, Carbajal-Perez also obtained a certification in IT Fundamentals.

But he had one more test to take.

“I passed one more test, my citizenship test, and I became a U.S. citizen on May 23, 2019,” he said to the audience. They gave him a standing ovation.

“Fifteen years ago, I crossed the border into the United States with nothing except the clothes I was wearing and a few things in my backpack,” he added. “Today I am living the American dream, and this is because I have been more than willing to work for it.”