My Story: Diondre Ouzts

Photo Credit: Donnell Jones

Written by: Amber Shelton, Public Relations Specialist, Goodwill Industries International 

Growing up, Diondre Ouzts says he was never motivated or inspired by learning. For him, school was always more about sports and socializing than academics. By the time he made it to high school, his athletic talents were his primary reason for attending. Several setbacks and mistakes caused him to become academically ineligible to play high school football. Feeling defeated and disappointed in his fate, Diondre ultimately decided to drop out of school and never imagined he would obtain his high school diploma.

Inspired by his mother’s positive experiences with The Excel Center¼, a charter high school operated by Goodwill of Greater Washington (DC), Diondre enrolled to obtain his high school diploma. He says enrolling in the College and Career Readiness program changed his life tremendously. Inspired by one of his instructors, he developed a love for learning, which led to a passion for teaching.

That desire carried Diondre through his tenure at The Excel Center, and he made it his mission to graduate. During his time there, he honed his leadership skills and felt led to help other youth like him learn and prepare for life. Diondre graduated and is now working with The Literacy Lab, tutoring young minds.

Diondre and his peers at The Literacy Lab are called Leading Men, and they tutor students in the subjects of reading and writing. The Excel Center prepared Diondre for his future through a comprehensive curriculum in business administration and communication skills that focuses on developing high-level communication skills and confidence in each learner’s abilities. Diondre is now preparing to start his own nonprofit organization for youth who face disadvantages in their lives.

As a result of the services The Excel Center provided, Diondre was able to refocus on his academics and receive the support he needed to reach his goals. Through his nonprofit, Diondre will use sports as a metaphor for education and envisions other more academically focused clubs like chess and robotics.

“Through [The Excel Center], I met so many new people willing to help me work and get my organization off the ground,” he says. “I thank the Goodwill community for everything.”

In addition to his full-time fellowship at The Literacy Lab, Diondre received a full-tuition scholarship to attend Catholic University to pursue early childhood education. He was also recently awarded Goodwill Industries International’s Kenneth Shaw Graduate of The Year Award. Diondre is a shining example of what hard work, perseverance and commitment can do to propel someone to the next level.

The Excel Center is currently available in five states. Contact your local Goodwill to find career services available in your area.

About the Award: The Goodwill Industries International Kenneth Shaw Graduate of the Year award recognizes an outstanding person with a disability or disadvantaging condition who completed a Goodwill career services program and is competitively employed by a non-Goodwill employer.