Multigenerational Work: Educating All Ages From Toddlers to Grandparents
This story is part of our Celebrating Education Innovation series leading up to our fall fundraiser. These stories highlight the progress, innovation, and impact of Indianapolis charter schools over the past 20 years from the perspectives of parents, school leaders, and community partners.
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By Dr. Sarah Weimer, Executive Director of Christel House Indianapolis
Christel House Indianapolis is defined by our holistic approach. We’re here to educate the entire student and ensure they are not only developing academically, but also developing as a person, and creating lifelong aspirations. Our horizons even stretch beyond traditional age K-12 with our adult high schools. We also follow our alumni for five years after they graduate from our high schools. And we just opened a childcare center at our southside location. From toddlers to grandparents, we are truly multigenerational, educating all ages.
A Long History of Innovation and Success
Christel House Indianapolis’ history dates back to the earliest days of charter schools in the city. We were one of the first charter schools to be founded after the charter school law passed in Indiana in 2001. We started out as a K-4 elementary school and grew to be K-8. Then, stemming from a recognized need by our families, we expanded into a high school and grew that over time. As our waitlist continued to grow we knew we had to responsibly expand the network again. So we added our westside K-8 campus.
We lead from the question, “What do we want to be true for students and families?” and then cultivate the resources and skills necessary to make that come true.Dr. Sarah Weimer
Throughout the 20 years that Christel House has served the Indianapolis community, I think our success stems from the mission and the people. In addition to that, we have embraced change, embraced growth, and leveraged innovation to remain relevant and able to nimbly serve students and the community. We lead from the question, “What do we want to be true for students and families?” and then cultivate the resources and skills necessary to make that come true.
When we notice barriers to our success, we problem solve and ask, “How can we address this?” I’ll give you an example. Several years ago, we recognized some challenges in our teacher pipeline. Rather than sit back and let ourselves be carried along by the status quo or just throw money at a recruitment company, we instead said, “We have really talented individuals in our network. Let’s start a teacher preparation program in-house where aspiring teachers can learn firsthand from and be mentored by a highly effective teacher.” That became our IndyTeach program.
Embracing the Village
That innovation extends to our approach to community partnership. Those partnerships are important because it takes a village to raise a child. I know that I couldn’t raise my personal children without my village. It only stands to reason that we need a lot of people in our students’ lives to support the range of needs they have. And, if we want to inspire our students to dream big, we have to expose them to the wider world out there.
Our partnership with OneAmerica has been extremely beneficial over the years for that very reason. They provide funding for our students to be able to attend Camptown experiences. We partner with a lot of different organizations to be able to create apprenticeship and internship opportunities for students and graduates. We also have great partnerships with local universities. Butler University provides a lot of our music education support through adjuncts and private lesson teachers and the University of Indianapolis sends their school of education students to our schools to provide additional academic support to our students.
Another partnership I want to dig deeper into is Camptown. The Camptown partnership is wonderful. Students regularly come back from a Camptown experience and say, “That was life-changing.” It is one of the things they remember for a long time, especially the eighth grade trip where they camp in the Appalachian Mountains; they go hiking and whitewater rafting. Students grow as leaders and people on these trips. They find out things about themselves and endure things they never thought they could. Experiences like that are critical for self-exploration and self-understanding.
The Purpose of a School
The purpose of all of these partnerships comes back to the purpose of a school: to serve the student and the community. Engaging with community partners and expanding our village means we are able to create the largest impact.
Educators and school leaders cannot do it all alone. School leaders have a lot on their plates these days. Society has high expectations for leaders and teachers for good reason. So it is imperative that we embrace partnerships. To be most effective in meeting our families’ needs, we have to reach out and ask for help. You have to build a village for your students. Our village includes OneAmerica, Camptown, Fifth Third Bank, Butler University, the University of Indianapolis, and so many more.
The responsibility of schools is to engage, support, and develop the next generation of leaders. It’s our obligation to work in partnership with the community to ensure we are co-creating the type of future we all envision.Dr. Sarah Weimer
Education defines the future for upcoming generations. Forget property values or the economic impact of quality education. That is so secondary to the human impact of equipping a child with a transformative K-12 experience. The responsibility of schools is to engage, support, and develop the next generation of leaders. It’s our obligation to work in partnership with the community to ensure we are co-creating the type of future we all envision.
At the end of the day, Christel House exists to help students develop and achieve their personal aspirations. It’s not just about test scores. It’s about how students perceive their quality of life. Are they able to achieve their aspirations? If so, job well done for us. If not, we need to recalibrate and try again.