Paving the way with Senior Institute

Since Options Schools was founded in 2002, the Senior Institute program has been a strong fixture upon which the foundation of Options has been built.

Within that program, each graduating senior is required to complete a community service-based learning project that spans the entirety of their senior year and requires at least 30 hours of volunteer service. While the details of each student’s service project may differ, the impact of Senior Institute is a positive one for all students.

One great example of that impact can be found with Options-Noblesville senior Lainey Welch and how a volunteer opportunity has helped pave a career path. For many students, the biggest obstacle of the Senior Institute project comes with selecting an organization to pair with for their service.

“When I was thinking about my organization, I decided I wanted to work with Riverwalk Village (Senior Community) because my Aunt worked there for 17 years and I used to volunteer there when I was younger,” said Lainey. “I didn’t know much, but I did know that I wanted to volunteer there.”

Once Riverwalk was selected by Lainey and approved by her Senior institute teacher Angie Smith, Lainey’s project was officially underway as she began volunteering in mid-September. Lainey’s 30 community service hours were obtained through working with the Riverwalk Activities Director, where she assisted with activities that the residents participated in.

“After I started volunteering, I just fell in love with the people and wanted to keep doing it even after Senior Institute,” said Lainey. “I formed a strong, natural connection with residents and that just helped me grow in the position.”

Through hard work and dedication, Lainey was able to extend her stay at Riverwalk Village as she accepted a paid position as an Activities Assistant in mid-November. The stars seemed to align, with the Activities Assistant role having been vacant and Lainey having proven the ability to handle such a position. As an Activities Assistant, she takes part in activities with residents, distributes mail, socializes with residents and assists with other tasks as needed. Lainey has hit the ground running in her new position, but Lainey wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I really enjoy it,” said Lainey. “I just love seeing the residents happy and I enjoy doing what I can to make them genuinely happy. I work six days a week and I’m not full-time, but I definitely have a busy schedule.”

While the Senior Institute project has already benefitted Lainey greatly, it isn’t exactly the result she had expected when the school year began in August.

“I never thought about a career like this before,” said Lainey. “I wanted to be a Biology teacher, but now I definitely think I want to be in Social Services, maybe even something with Psychology or getting by CNA license so I can work as a Certified Nursing Assistant.”

What other benefits does Lainey see from the Senior Institute project as she now works towards the presentation portion?

“It just has opened me up to so many different people in different cultures and just having a different sense of what other people might think,” said Lainey. “I feel that I am so much kinder because I have gained a new point of view on things and the residents give me a sense of hope that I can be my most genuine happy self.”

With Lainey set to graduate from Options in May 2020, she is now shaping her future plans around her role at Riverwalk as an Activities Assistant as she plans to continue in her position after graduation while attending Ivy Tech, before eventually transferring to Ball State University.


In order to continue our efforts of serving students in search of a different approach to education, Options will be hosting a pair of Open Houses in January. The Carmel campus will host an Open House on Tuesday, January 14 and the Noblesville event will be held on Wednesday, January 15. Each Open House will begin at 5 p.m. and conclude at 7 p.m. Attendees will have the opportunity to tour the respective campus and speak in detail with Options Principals, teachers and other team members in order to learn more about the Options experience.

About Options Schools
Serving students in grades 6-12, Options Schools are free, public charter schools with brick and mortar campuses in Carmel and Noblesville & another campus coming to Westfield. Options also offers a Distance Education program that serves students throughout Indiana. Providing students with an inclusive environment and a student-to-teacher ratio of 15-to-1. With a high-quality, individualized approach, Options was founded in 2002.