INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Hope Academy continues open enrollment for high school students who are in recovery from substance use disorders. Its new location is helping reach even more teenagers seek a second chance south of downtown near the University of Indianapolis.
Hope Academy is tuition-free and has been a charter school since 2005. It’s the only recovery school in the state. There are 45 recovery schools for teenagers across the nation.
Twenty-one percent of Indiana high school students have reported taking prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription one or more times during their life, according to data provided by Hope Academy.
Data shows there’s a 40 percent increase in student’s GPA with more than 200 days of sobriety.
Hope Academy is in session Monday through Friday, but unlike traditional school there’s about 30 students who attend to overcome mental health issues and substance abuse.
“My kids report that they start using around age 11 or 12 (years old) and they don’t see their drug or alcohol use being identified until they’re 15 or 16,” said co-founder and executive director Rachelle Gardner.
Students who attend Hope Academy are also behind on credits and working to get on track to earn a high school diploma.
“We have kids that come here that are either a semester or a whole year behind. They may be juniors but have sophomore credits because they’ve been using, and they haven’t been going to school,” Gardner added.
The curriculum remains the same, but with licensed teachers providing additional support. It’s why sophomore Ashley Mash says she left Carmel High School to focus on going to college and being a veterinary assistant.
“I just had substance abuse and just a lot of drama at my old school and I thought it would be better to come to a smaller school with people that who might be going through the same thing as me,” said Mash.
Students often huddle around to address their issues head on with each person discussing how they handle anxiety, depression and identify triggers to using drugs or alcohol. There are also peer specialists who offer therapy, tutoring and after school hang outs in a sober environment.
“They come here they get an education, they have a relationship with their teachers, but afterwards they also get to come in this room and hang out with their friends and play video games, paint and do art in kind of a way they haven’t been used to doing in a super long time,” said peer support specialist Sarah Platt.
Although the road to recovery isn’t always perfect, those Platt and Mash believe the amount of support makes the ride less bumpy.
“It takes a lot of patience and a lot of empathy because they’re in a really hard place that a lot of people haven’t and won’t have to be in,” Platt said.
“I do have a lot of days when I struggle with wanting to use and just a lot of other things, but definitely the support here has helped me cope with that more than I could ever cope with that,” Mash said.