By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – On Thursday, May 23rd, five teens will receive their high school diploma. These are teens in recovery from substance abuse and addiction graduating from Oklahoma’s only recovery high school, Mission Academy.
The graduation ceremony will take place at St. Paul’s Cathedral, 127 NW 7th Street, in downtown Oklahoma City. Will and four other graduates will be honored with a reception to follow.
As a local nonprofit that operates Mission Academy High School, Teen Recovery Solutions works to reclaim teens from substance abuse and addiction by providing a sober high school and recovery support. The organization believes supporting a student’s sobriety while they complete their education, leads to a higher rate of success in recovery as adults.
“When my 17-year-old son, Will, went into residential treatment for substance use disorder in the middle of his senior year of high school, graduation was the last thing on my mind. Instead, I was praying for Will’s life,” says Virginia Holleman, a parent of an attending high school senior.
Often the first step for a parent, if they can afford it, is to take their child to an inpatient treatment center for usually 30 to 90 days. But once a child returns home from treatment, they need a plan for continual care and a supportive environment to finish school.
“As Will progressed in treatment, my husband and I began to search for the next step,” Virginia said. “Our primary concern was finding continual care to help Will succeed in recovery.
“We knew that returning to a mainstream high school or even online school from home would not work,” she added. “Will would simply be returning to the same people, places, and things that he was involved in before he entered treatment, which would likely be a recipe for immediate relapse.”
Teen Recovery Solutions opened the doors to its recovery high school in 2006, one of 40 such schools in the nation. Its students participate in individual counseling, support groups, and random drug testing.
“Will came home from treatment on a Saturday and started at Teen Recovery Solutions the following Monday. It could not have been soon enough,” said Holleman. “They provided essential counseling and peer support that has been critical in Will’s recovery.
“We felt confident Will was in a safe and structured environment surrounded by the most caring of individuals,” she added. “We are proud to say Will is set to graduate high school this month.”
The school is staffed by certified teachers, licensed counselors, and peer recovery coaches. Combining traditional and online coursework, students can catch up where they may have fallen behind in school and work toward individualized goals.
“Tomorrow night we will graduate five seniors with a combined over eight years of sobriety, which is an absolute miracle,” said Joe Don Fennell, TRS executive director. “All of them are either already concurrently enrolled or have plans on attending college next year. As a staff member at TRS and Mission Academy High School, we couldn’t be prouder.”
According to Fennell, the school relies on a strong culture of recovery, and peers and staff hold teens accountable in ways that wouldn’t be possible in a traditional school.
The teens and their parents learn recovery skills that will help them succeed beyond high school as the students pursue college.
For more information, visit TeenRecoverySolutions.org.