It is the last lesson of the day. The students lean back on sofas and take turns describing the most important day of their lives: the day they became sober.
For Marques Martinez, this was November 15, 2016. By then he had OxyContin, Xanax, and almost every other drug he could get his hands on, he said. He had been suspended from the school for selling drugs. "I knew I was bad," he said. "But I did not think there was another way."
Two years ago, Martinez's parents sent him to an inpatient treatment center and enrolled him at this unusual high school, Interagency with Queen Anne or IQA. Martinez, 1
The public school campus in Seattle, known as a recreational school, is designed for students who learn to lead a sober life while enjoying their lives Acquire diplomas. The approximately 20 students attend courses in mathematics, language arts and physical education and complete other online courses. They meet regularly with a counselor and participate in daily support group meetings based on Alcoholics Anonymous programs.
Recent research shows that recovery schools – also known as sober schools – help keep students away from drugs.
A 2017 study by Vanderbilt University Associate Professor Andy Finch and other researchers showed that students at recovery schools were significantly more likely than those who are not in such schools to run out of drugs and alcohol six months after their first survey , And the average reported absence among the 134 students of the rehabilitation school in the study was lower than the other students.
For the first time in the late 1970s there were rehabilitation schools, of which about 40 exist nationwide, including Minnesota, Texas and Massachusetts. Others are expected to open as the overdose of opioids continues to increase, said Finch, co-founder of the Association of Recovery Schools. "There has been a gap in the treatment of adolescents for many years," he said. "The schools are one of the programs that fill this gap."
Finch said that about 85 percent of recreational schools are public or have public funds available, while some are private campuses or part of treatment centers. Finn said that new sober schools are planned in New York, Delaware and Oregon.
Starting a school can be complicated, but recovery schools have additional layers of complexity. They must recruit their students, impose a policy specific to them and finance the necessary services.
Lawyers and school officials in Delaware had hoped to set up a public recreational school this year but could not get the funding they needed, said Don Keister, who runs Attack Addiction, a stakeholder he co-founded after his son overdosed Heroin had died. Keister said a local school district offered to provide the room and equipment, but did not have the estimated $ 2 million needed to cover staff costs.
"There is a real need," he said. "In Delaware, we have no real help for teens."
The illegal drug use of middle and high school students is at record lows. According to the annual National Survey of Monitoring the Future, nearly every fifth grade 10 student reported having used an illegal drug in the last 30 days.
Like Martinez, many of Anne's interagency students go there directly from treatment programs. They say they are less tempted than traditional high schools. "People are offering you medicines there on a daily basis," said 15-year-old Coltrane Fisher, who regularly used heroin, cocaine and other illicit drugs last March.
The success of recovery colleges is partly due to the success of the students being sober peers, as well as teachers and counselors who all support their sobriety.
"If these children do not engage in recovery with other young people, they have no chance," said Seth Welch, consultant on recovery recovery at Interagency Queen Anne. "This will become her new community."
But walking is not always easy.
IQA's teachers believe that the environment is critical to their success, but it is sometimes challenging to work there. Some students are far behind in their credit points, and they do not always respond well to authority. "The more we push them, the more they push back," said one of the teachers, Phyllis Coletta.
Sometimes the teaching work has to be stopped, Coletta said. On one last day of school one of the newer students was so upset that she cried most of the day, clutching a blanket. Coletta hugged her and they took a long walk.
"Mental health and sobriety come first," said Coletta. The Queen Anne interagency, opened in late 2014, is part of a network of alternative public school campuses called the Interagency Academy, which also caters to homeless and detained youth.
The campus was initially moved by a group of primary school parents who feared that students would sell drugs in the neighborhood. But Melinda Leonard, the former deputy headmistress who helped found the school, said these fears have now given way to community support.
"The campus is the most sober school in the school district," said Leonard.
The school signs a sober promise and agrees to the random drug tests. They have not been thrown out of the house due to relapses, but Welch, the counselor, helps bring them back to treatment when they are actively reinstated.
Since the opening of the school, 21 students have graduated. Welch and the teachers help students plan the future. For example, Martinez will graduate this month and attend community college classes.
Recently, language teacher Heidi Lally recently played a song from the hit musical "Dear Evan Hansen" about loneliness and fear in high school. She encouraged the students to write about the song in terms of their recovery.
One student wrote, "I had suicidal thoughts and attempts, and those texts have reminded me of those times." Another wrote, "Shadows crowd me / me I've lost / but how much does it cost to end this feeling.
For Coltrane Fisher, costs plummeted. At age 12, he started smoking marijuana and then switched to other drugs. He did not go to school last year and did not come home for days. "No one grows up and thinks you're addicted," he said. "It just happens."
Fischer's mother, Lisa Luengo, said she did not recognize the extent of the incident. "He derails fast and very deep," said Luengo, a community college teacher. She sent Fisher to a rehab program in Utah before she enrolled him here.
Luengo knows the school is right for her son, although she thinks she is academically weaker than other schools. "If he was in another school, he would crumble," she said. "The school gives it a future."
Fisher agreed. "I can not achieve anything in my life if I'm not sober," he said, "and I would not be sober, if not for this school."