Hope Academy graduates its Class of 2018

Hope Academy honored its Class of 2018 and marked the recovery high school’s 12th anniversary with a commencement ceremony on June 2. This year’s class had nine graduates.

Principal Linda Gagyi noted during the ceremony that each senior received a jigsaw puzzle keychain during their senior breakfast. It symbolizes that, like each puzzle piece, everyone has a spot to fill to make the puzzle, our world, whole.

“When you carry your key ring, just know how much we at Hope Academy cherish being a part of your puzzle journey,” Gagyi said. “Consider what can be built together in our community if we are truly willing to include, lean on and support each other. There will be no limit to what you can achieve.”

Hope Academy President and CEO Barb Elliott continued that thought with a quote from the book “Together We Can: Celebrating the Power of a Team and a Dream”: “You alone can do it. But you can’t do it alone.”

“Each one of you individually had many challenges to face that you alone could conquer. Yet you didn’t do it alone. Your families, your friends, your classmates and your teachers were there on the journey alongside you,” Elliott said.

“This very special school, Hope Academy, was with you every step of the way. And will continue to be part of you as you go forward into your future.”

Guest speaker Scott Fadness, mayor of Fishers, Ind., reflected on the hardships he’s experienced. Growing up on a family farm in North Dakota, he would’ve been the fourth generation in his family to run the business. Until the farm was foreclosed when he was 16.

“Adversity had knocked on my door,” Fadness said. “Each one of us will face adversity at different points in our lives. It will manifest itself in different ways. It’s just part of life.”

He spent the next couple years trying to figure out what he’d do with his life. All Fadness knew was that he wanted to be part of something bigger than himself. After earning a bachelor’s degree in political science, a professor suggested he consider a career in government. Fadness researched top master’s programs in that field, which brought him to Indiana University’s School of Public and Environmental Affairs. An internship through the city of Fishers led to him being the city’s first manager, then elected as the first mayor.

“I have a fundamental belief that, through adversity, opportunity does spring,” Fadness said. “If you keep your eyes open and have the faith when we find that opportunity, amazing things can happen. I know many of you have faced adversity in your life already. But understand there are enormous opportunities as well that parallel adversity. I truly believe you are on the path to something special.”

Georgia Wynne, who gave the alumni student address, may be a perfect example of Fadness’ message. Rachelle Gardner, Hope Academy’s chief operating officer, compared the 2011 graduate to “getting tossed in and out of an F5 tornado” when she was a student. Now a Hope Academy employee, “To know Georgia now is like enjoying the sunshine on a nice spring day, with a gentle breeze,” Gardner said.

Wynne expressed doubt that she ever would’ve finished high school if not for Hope Academy.

“I am forever grateful that Hope never gave up on me,” she said. “Hope was a safe place for my academic struggles, as well as struggles with recovery. There were many times where the students and the staff at Hope Academy were the only thing getting me through the day.

“Hope Academy was a safe place for me to start the journey of finding myself.”

Before starting at Hope Academy, 2018 Valedictorian Sophia Herrick had no desire to finish school and didn’t think she could anyway. Now she’s been in recovery for a year, starting college in August and never been happier.

“None of us would have made it here without the help of the people who make Hope Academy not only a school, but a family,” Herrick said. “There is not another school I would rather be speaking for than this one. This environment has inspired myself among many others to do small things with great love and has truly invoked hope in us.”

As Indiana’s only recovery high school, Hope Academy has graduated more than 140 students and served over 700 students in its 12 years.