By Richard Asinof
PROVIDENCE – The Anchor Learning Academy, Rhode Island’s first recovery high school, held its grand opening celebration on Oct. 24, featuring a roundtable discussion with two students, the school’s director and a number of state officials, including Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee.
The recovery high school, a two-year pilot program being managed by The Providence Center, currently has four students enrolled and another four-to-six students at various stages of the admission process.
Students are referred to Anchor Learning Academy by their home school districts, parents and treatment providers. Student costs are covered in part by the per pupil allotment from their sending school districts as well as from a $100,000 grant from The Rhode Island Foundation.
“Rhode Island has the highest rate of illicit drug use in the nation for adolescents 12 to 17 year-olds, and currently there are more than 430 children in residential treatment programs,” said Dale K. Klatzker, president and CEO of The Providence Center. “Anchor Learning Academy offers a means for these students to achieve their potential both academically and as a person in recovery.”
As part of the discussion, two current students shared their own stories, praising the recovery high school as a supportive environment that enabled them to catch up on their studies and maintain their sobriety.
“As an educator and a school administrator, I’ve seen students with substance abuse problems who want to change their lives, but are unable to succeed in their traditional schools,” said Paula Santos, director of Anchor Learning Academy. “I am grateful to be a part of this project and to be working with students, school districts, and families to offer a solution for these students.”
Sen. John Tassoni from Smithfield, one of the legislative sponsors of the recovery high school, said that he hoped that the school would be able to expand in the coming years. The only negative reaction he had heard, Tassoni continued, was from “patents who don’t want to admit that their children have a problem.”
Chafee called the recovery high school as “a great example of Rhode Island working together,” praising the collaborative effort that enabled to recovery high school to be created. Chafee acknowledged that the high numbers for drug use in Rhode Island were high, but the governor said it was a positive sign that people were acknowledging the problem and seeking recovery.
From a personal perspective, Chafee told the Providence Business News that as a parent, “all of us involved with teens know that these are transitional years when different things are going to happen.”