A Raleigh mother is raising money to open a high school in Wake County designed specifically for students overcoming addiction.
The Wake Monarch Academy is the brainchild of Leah Wright, a first grade teacher who has personal experience with the opioid epidemic. Wright struggled to find treatment for her son’s opioid addiction while he was in high school.
“What I found when we were trying to help him is that there really weren’t enough resources for adolescents,” she said. “Everytime I turned to try to get him help it was ‘Is he 18? Is he 18'?”
Recovery high schools have been around since the 1980’s but are becoming more common as states grapple with the opioid epidemic. They provide an accredited education as well as substance abuse treatment and certified drug counselors.
The schools are designed to be the next step for a recovering teen once he or she leaves a 30-day inpatient addiction treatment program.
“Anybody in recovery, they need that constant support. If you put a teenager back in their same school they don’t have that support,” Wright said. “But in a recovery high school, you’re going to have other peers going through the same thing. So those adolescents don’t feel alone. They’re going to feel like part of a unit.”
Studies have shown students who attend a recovery high school after an addiciton treatment program are more likely to abstain from drugs and attend class than students who return to a traditional school.
Wake Monarch Academy is scheduled to open in 2020, which will make it the second recovery high school to open in North Carolina.
The first to open will be the Emerald School of Excellence, which is on track to open in Charlotte in August 2019. That effort is being led by another educator, Mary Ferreri. Wright acknowledges Ferreri’s school was the inspiration for hers and the two are now working closely together.
Wake Monarch Academy will most likely be a private school, according to Wright. That will make it easier to open the school on an accelerated timeline, although lack of public funding could shut out low-income students.
Wright said she’s hoping a gofundme campaign will raise enough money to pay for scholarships so no student will be turned away.
"This school is for any child who needs help," Wright said.