Indiana Academy: A Higher Education
Cicero boarding school offers unique experience for diverse student body
Hidden in plain sight on a 500-acre campus along Ind. 19 in Cicero, Indiana Academy has been educating high school students for 114 years, yet maintains a low profile in a county nationally recognized for its excellence in education.
The boarding school, owned and managed by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, teaches beyond academics, emphasizing work skills and ethics, physical health and service to others. Students are required to work on campus as well as participate in community service programs and mission trips.
Real World Experience
Project 58 is one such community outreach opportunity. Principal Steven Baughman says Project 58 is based on Bible passages Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25:40, which call Christ’s followers to serve others as a fulfillment of His commission.
“Once a month we modify our school day to allow the entire student body, staff and faculty to participate in various types of community service,” said Baughman. “We bake bread and cookies to deliver to local businesses and homes, a group of students sews and prepares care packages for the Birthright organization in Cicero, we work with both Gleaners food bank in Indianapolis and the Hamilton County food bank in Noblesville, a group of students helps at the Hamilton County Humane Society, while another group volunteers at the Agape Therapeutic Equestrian Center.”
The academy integrates the classroom with service projects as well, giving students tangible, real-world opportunities to problem-solve for their community.
“Our biology teacher, Art Miller, had his students collect and analyze macro-invertebrates from the Little Cicero Creek running behind our campus to determine water pollution levels,” Baughman explained. “What we're striving to do is incorporate elements of service with this education model. In this case, Mr. Miller had his students prepare and present their findings to members of the Cicero Stormwater Advisory board to help them as they develop methods to inform the greater community of their impact on local water contamination levels.”
Junior Taylor Uphus, Cicero, quickly discovered the personal benefit she reaped when serving others. “Participating in these projects has allowed me to see the needs of others,” Uphus said. “At first I didn't really enjoy Project 58 and didn't realize the impact I could have on my community. While we rarely get to see the people that benefit from our service, I have grown to realize that some of the greatest joy comes from helping others and not getting any recognition for it.”
Baughman believes the knowledge gained by service is crucial for students. “One of the jobs I'm most excited about, Project: ASSIST, again brings in components of service to our program. This program, partially funded through a grant, employs students to provide companionship with elderly individuals to help decrease elderly isolation.” Students who work in this program split their time between nursing homes in Noblesville and Tipton.
“One of our priorities as a school is to provide students a quality education, but to do it in a way that enables them to embrace a missionary-like attitude and commitment to lifelong service to others, as we believe Christ has called us to, in the process,” Baughman said.
Once a working farm, Indiana Academy used to raise livestock give its students an agricultural experience. The farm is no longer in operation but having a job remains an important part of the curriculum.
“One of the unique components of our school program is that we help our students develop some work experience and hopefully a strong work ethic by having each of our students work,” Baughman said. “Most of the students work on campus doing jobs ranging from maintenance and janitorial to preparing food in the cafeteria and serving as residents' assistants in the dorms.”
Although Indiana Academy is a boarding school, with 124 students, 25 percent live off campus. Students come from across Indiana, other states and internationally. Because it’s a home-away-from-home, faculty and staff are more than just teachers to the students.
“The atmosphere is much more family-like. Students eat all meals together, have worship times together, live together in the dormitories, and play and interact together every night for an hour at recreation, either in our gymnasium or on the athletic field,” said teacher Jordan Reichert. “It would be best described as a little functioning community within the greater community at large.”
Sharing the Faith
Reichert and Baughman are products of a Seventh-day Adventist education, and Baughman is a 1998 graduate of Indiana Academy. Both men credit their education with cultivating the desire to teach in a boarding school environment.
“The relationships I was able to form with my teachers and my dean began the process of my personal, spiritual, academic, and, eventually, professional growth,” Baughman recalled. “That relationship and influential mentoring experience that they had on me is what I strive to provide for my students now.”
Reichert shared a similar experience. “I always had a desire to work in a school where I could directly and openly share my faith,” he said. “I wanted to work with teenagers, not only as a teacher for in-classroom curriculum, but also in the ins and outs of daily life as a Christian - decision-making, social interactions, dealing with various emotions, cultivating a walk with Christ. A Christian boarding school environment is an environment conducive to this holistic approach to education.”
Although she doesn’t live on campus, Uphus still feels the family environment at school. “IA is an excellent place to go to school if you are looking to grow in your relationship with Jesus, want to have strong relationships with your teachers, meet many new friends, experience living with a variety of cultures, and experience a variety of different ways of learning outside the typical classroom,” she said.
Baughman hopes to increase community awareness of the academy. “Rather than having people tell me that they've seen our water tower when they find out I work at Indiana Academy, I want them to be able to tell me how they've been impacted by our students.”
By Jennifer Beikes
Photos by Stan Gurka