Academy Stories

We’ve asked current and former members of the Academy family – students, alumni, parents, faculty, and staff – to share their feelings about the Academy with us. Here are their stories!

Victoria Whipple
Indiana Academy Class of 2022

Taylor Hubble
Student Life Counselor / Indiana Academy Class of 2011

Heather Rogers
Lecturer of Russian and German

CR Henderson
Indiana Academy Class of 2001

Alexandra Harris
Indiana Academy Class of 2013

Lauren Poindexter
Indiana Academy Class of 2012

How did I get here? I ask myself this most mornings as I glance out of my window past my university, past the Incheon skyline, and on towards the Yellow Sea. How did I get here from a small town in Indiana? How did I get here from dreams of being the next great [insert scientist here]? How did I get here, to this day, living this comfortable dream of a life written and revised over the last decade (or so)? Read More…Read Less

It started with a challenge to myself to be uncomfortable and give the Indiana Academy a real chance. As a risk-averse 16 year old, I was skeptical. I liked my cozy home life. However, just living vicariously through my sister a year before I would attend, I was overwhelmed. The bubble was burst and a new world opened.

When I reflect on my life now and decisions I made to get to this point, those key memories are rooted in my Academy experience. Jeep Lounge is where I found the flyer for an engineering summer program at the university that would later become my alma mater. Making banana flavoring in a chemistry lab would inspire a degree in food science. My Farming May Term was my first introduction to dairy science and the foundation for my interest in cheesemaking throughout college.

When I graduated and it came time to job search I was chasing a feeling. I knew that I liked food science but I truly loved developing people. Being a Peer Assistant at the Academy was my introduction to Student Affairs though I didn’t know it at the time. In fact, I found my most fulfilling experiences were youth and peer mentorship programs. And as fate would have it, an opening as an SLC at the Academy appeared when I needed it most.

I spent two transformative years in that role. Being a support person who could empathize with the student experience while providing care and guidance was exactly what I needed from my career. The flexible nature of the position gave me the ability to craft my own professional development. By the time I left the role to pursue graduate education my transferable skills from working with the faculty, staff, and students were incredibly well-developed.

Still, how did I get here to South Korea working in Student Affairs? I owe it all in earnest to the K-pop club I advised as an SLC. My first exposure to Korean language, culture, and entertainment came from this dedicated group of students. Witnessing Korean international students and domestic students demonstrate daily cross-cultural exchange was the inspiration for graduate work in international student acculturation programs. Seeing their passion drew me closer to a culture I now spend my days fully immersed in.

These advising and supporting skills in combination with residence life experience perfectly prepared me not only for my graduate assistantship but my current role. And that is really the theme of my Academy story. Those day-to-day experiences and encounters paying dividends in my future. Each day is a new journey seeing what other Academy memory might manifest for my next adventure.

-Lauren Poindexter, Class of 2012

Ali Henke
Indiana Academy Class of 2013

Hannah Luther (Campbell)
Indiana Academy Class of 2009

It really shocked everyone I knew, especially my family, when I expressed interest in attending the Academy. I am the middle of seven children and very close to my family. Why I would want to live away from home starting at age 16 was just unfathomable to them. I told them it was because The Academy just seemed like a great opportunity (but secretly I just really wanted that MacBook). Read More…Read Less

Long story short, I went. I could sit here and write about a million different thoughts and opinions I had about the academy. I could talk about how I met a plethora of people many of whom I still keep in touch with (though we are all spread out across the country). I could talk about the random videos I would film with my friends in the halls of our dorms. I could talk about how grateful I am to my mother for teaching me to do my own laundry before being forced to do it all on my own at 16. Or I could talk about the crazy fun things I did in classes that I would have never experienced elsewhere, like standing around a big rock wearing a bedsheet with a hundred other class mates listening to Dr. Arnold portray Aristotle and Socrates on “Toga Day”. Or I could boast about how I was only the sixth person in the history of Grady’s class up to that point to ever get an ‘A’ on his Excel test (I never did get that pizza party).

But instead I want to talk about the actual academic lessons I learned over my time there and the people who taught them to me. Sure, I wasn’t the smartest kid in my class and truth be told, I never did get a college degree. But the lessons I learned in each one of my classes have followed me through each stage of my life. I can still hear Watson vividly describing the events of World War 2, Stuart encouraging us to dig into the secrets surrounding Watergate, Rajca expressing the importance of knowing how to use imaginary numbers, Ney and Hynes helping me realize my true love for writing. And most of all, Kavars unraveling the mysteries of our universe and instilling in me the deep fascination I have of space. Every single teacher I had at The Academy taught me something. Every single teacher I had instilled in me a desire to look further than what was in front of me. I may not have gone on to be the Administrator of NASA like I swore I would be. And I may still be sitting on the manuscript that I vow to publish someday, but the amount of knowledge I have on history, language, art, math and science can all be attributed to my time at the Academy.

Just the fact that I can still see every teachers’ face and hear them in my head is a tribute to the impact they have on not just me but every student who walks in those doors. Every educator in those walls cares deeply about the education, well-being and success of their students. They take the time to get to know them. They keep up with many of them after graduation. They don’t see a single student as ‘just another student’. They see each one as someone who needs to learn something from them. That’s what I hold on tightly to in my memories of my time at the Academy. That’s what I tell people about, and if my children never get experience it first hand, that’s what I will tell them about.

Teachers make all the difference.

Hannah Luther (Campbell)
Class of 2009

YeChan Lim
Indiana Academy Class of 2012

I think the happiest moment of my life was when I was accepted into the Academy – more so than being accepted in college, grad school, and getting my first full-time job. I remember the moment vividly. I was watching TV at home and got the call from Jo Tuite letting me know was accepted. I ran around the house in excitement and called my best friend, Rikki, who also attended the Academy with me. It was the most exciting and terrifying moment of my life, but I knew I wanted it more than anything else. Read More…Read Less

Flash forward 2.5 years to graduation. As I sat on stage during commencement looking around at all my fellow classmates and teachers, I realized just how special the experience had been. The Academy is well known for its reputation as an amazing educational institution for gifted students. The classes challenged me to think critically and truly ignited my intellectual curiosity. However, reflecting nearly 10 years since graduation, what I remember most are not the classes. Rather, what seemed like insignificant moments throughout my time at the Academy stick out most. The late-night runs to China X with friends, drinking way too much Starbucks on the weekends with meal points, playing euchre and bridge until curfew, sewing costumes for the Shakespeare plays. These are the moments that I miss and often reflect upon.

I truly believe those two years at the Academy had the most significant impact on who I am today. Now, I won’t lie and say it was all rainbows and sunshine. I had my fair share of failures and all-nighters. The cold hard fact that I was no longer the smartest kid at school definitely humbled me. It forced me to learn good study habits and prioritize what was important to me. However, if I had the opportunity to do it all over again, would I? Absolutely! The culture and atmosphere of the Academy is something very difficult to describe in words. Mix a bunch of awkward teenage nerds from all over Indiana and what do you get? Somewhere that feels like home.

-YeChan Lim, Class of 2012

Jane Friedman
Indiana Academy Class of 1994

I grew up in a rural Indiana town of 2,000, where every year they still crown Little Miss Sweet Corn. It’s a town of a dozen railroad crossings and no traffic lights.

My town’s high school consisted of 300 students, and that was after drawing from surrounding farming communities that didn’t have high schools of their own. There wasn’t much to do aside from go to school, visit the local library, and go “cruising.” Cruising meant driving in circles around town—one mile per lap—with country music blaring. Read More…Read Less

As a bookish sort—always the first to raise her hand in class or volunteer to help the teacher—I didn’t fit in too well. I tended to participate in activities I wasn’t cut out for, just to have something to pass the time—track and field, volleyball scorekeeper, church youth group activities. (These were pre-Web days!)

When I was a sophomore, I saw a poster in the library announcing a new magnet high school for gifted and talented students, limited to juniors and seniors. I applied because I wanted an academic challenge. But I was afraid of leaving my hometown friends, so much so that I hesitated to confirm my spot when I received my acceptance letter. My mother nearly went out of her mind with frustration. How could I pass up such a tremendous opportunity? I decided she was right.

In fall 1992, a new world opened up.

For the first time, I was surrounded by people smarter than I, people who were far more advanced in their schoolwork. I had to take the lowest level math courses since I was so far behind everyone else. But I devoured the eccentric and deep-dive literature classes, such as Lost Generation Literature, Shadow Literature, and Shakespearean comedies.

For the first time, I found friends who I had something in common with aside from geography.

For the first time, I found that boys could really be interested in me.

For the first time, no one made fun of my bookish ways.

It was only after graduating from the Academy that I realized its biggest gift had nothing to do with the education (though that was invaluable); it was the gift of a community that accepted me and gave me permission to become whoever I really was. I developed confidence, a unique voice, and a foundation of independence that I later built upon while in college.

Today, I still retain some social awkwardness, someone for whom making new friends feels more difficult than it ought to be. But the Academy showed me what real friendships look like; it was a far more intimate and personal bonding experience than what I found in college.