By Kelsey Trotter
High school is difficult for anyone; you’re meeting new people, worried about fitting in, and your body is changing. For some it has the added stress of dealing with a substance use disorder, making this already difficult time harder. That’s where Hope Academy, a recovery charter school, comes into play. As Indiana’s only recovery high school, it gives hope to the seemingly hopeless.
A teenage girl, whom we will call Jane, struggled with a substance use disorder for years. She sought out treatment, but like so many with an addiction, Jane relapsed and found herself searching for help once again. She went to treatment centers all across the country, but nothing seemed to work.
This cycle continued for years and Jane’s addiction got worse. Her family lost hope and began looking for a new solution, one that might actually help this time. Desperate to help their daughter, Jane’s family moved from Savannah, Georgia, to Indianapolis when they found Hope Academy.
Like regular high schools, Hope Academy offers a curriculum focused on achieving a high-school diploma. Unlike regular high schools, Hope Academy also offers recovery classes for those with a substance use disorder, while integrating support into the typical high school classes. The school is designed for students with a dual desire to continue their academic education while growing in recovery.
“Instead of throwing them headfirst into both recovery and school, we are slowly moving them into that so they better understand it,” says Rachelle Gardner, Chief Operating Officer of Hope Academy. Some students attend Hope Academy after undergoing treatment. For others, Hope Academy is their first step on their road to recovery. These students begin with the Supportive, Therapeutic, Action-focused Recovery Room (STARR) Program, teaching them how to simultaneously ease their way into recovery and schooling.
Each student creates a recovery plan and works with a recovery coach, recovery alternative peer groups and a peer specialist who guides them through the process. Gardner explains that Hope Academy is a substance-free campus, where they conduct drug tests. “Recovery doesn’t happen just in one day, it is a process,” continues Gardner. Understanding that addiction is a chronic, relapsing brain disease, the school handles relapse by involving parents and “unpacking” where it fell apart and how to create a new, stronger plan.
While students work on their recovery, they also grow academically. Having teachers on their side, and peers who are substance-free, students can take the standard high school classes and participate in after school activities in a recovery supportive environment. Hope Academy strongly encourages the after-school program as it’s a time to interact with peers, build life skills, participate in fun activities, and stay out of potential trouble. The bonus is surrounding yourself with others in recovery and building those positive relationships.
Now, back to Jane. She attended Hope Academy for 2.5 years, celebrated 18 months of recovery, obtained her diploma and graduated as valedictorian. Jane was accepted into a prominent art school where she will continue to grow in recovery and in her passion for art. Jane has been willing to share her story with other high school students, families and professionals about her experience. After all, she found hope at Hope Academy and her story inspires many high school students struggling with an addiction.
Hope Academy was a featured award winner in the 2019 Innovation Now project of the Addiction Policy Forum.
Prior to joining the Addiction Policy Forum as the Coordinator of Digital Marketing and Public Relations, Kelsey was the communications fellow at the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. Kelsey is passionate about storytelling and brings her creativity and effective communication skills to her work at Addiction Policy Forum. Kelsey received her Bachelors degree from Michigan State University and moved to Washington, DC to leave a positive impact on the world.