It’s hard to believe that nearly 10 years have passed since we first opened our doors at The Independence Academy of Indiana. When I think of how far we have come since my co-founder, Ruth Padgett, and I began meeting to share our vision for a school, I’m both humbled and inspired.
In our first few years, we were located near Butler University at the same site where The Orchard, Sycamore, and Deaf Schools all began. We loved our first home among four acres of rolling hills, where our students played soccer, enjoyed the community gardens on the grounds, and worked together in small groups learning academics and daily life and social skills.
By our fourth year, we’d outgrown our first location and moved to a larger space at First Meridian Heights Presbyterian Church in the heart of the Meridian-Kessler neighborhood, where we continue to grow. Although much has changed and evolved since our first year, much of what distinguishes our school from others has stayed the same. Our students and teachers still take a mid-morning walk around the neighborhood to keep themselves fresh and focused. We still maintain sensory rooms and spaces, where students can take a break and learn self-regulation. We provide daily life and social skills classes, as we always have, so our students will learn valuable skills that can make all the difference in a successful transition to adulthood. Our Way-to-Go Board still graces the hallway wall, where students and teachers alike can write notes celebrating one another’s successes. Our annual winter program is still the best variety show in town. Our students continue to take monthly field trips and enjoy all that the community has to offer. And, we maintain a personal approach to teaching with wonderfully dedicated and experienced educators who take the time to get to know each of the students and foster an atmosphere of acceptance and growth.
From the very beginning, we have striven to accomplish our mission and connect our students with opportunities to succeed: for instance, our first graduate, Brandon Hunt, was selected to complete a paid internship at the Indianapolis Museum of Art with acclaimed filmmaker, Julie Dash. And today, we have students who complete paid summer internships at Art Mix and volunteer at other area agencies. Through our parent education nights, we present a variety of opportunities and information to help enhance students’ transition to life beyond Independence Academy.
Ruth and I are thankful for the steady leadership of our Director of School, Marisa Gill, who works tirelessly to advocate for our students and challenges them to do their very best. We’re also thankful for our team of teachers who make learning hands-on, visual, and meaningful for all of our students. Finally, we’re grateful for the support of our Board of Directors.
The first 10 years of The Independence Academy have been an extraordinary journey. We continue to be the only school in Indiana designed solely to meet the needs of students with high-functioning autism. And we continue to be a place of pride and amazement in our unique students. As I watch them all meet and exceed expectations in our supportive setting, I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years will bring!
Susan Le Vay, Co-founder of The Independence Academy