In its national drug policy, the Obama administration has been promoting the expansion of programs like Hope Academy in Indianapolis, a high school that's all about helping young people in recovery learn -- and stay sober.
"I think recovery high schools are some of the most inspiring institutions we have here in the United States," said Michael Botticelli, acting director of the White House drug control policy office. "To see young people and to see young people succeeding in not only their academic achievements but their recovery… is tremendously uplifting," said Botticelli, who gave the school's commencement address on Saturday.
Botticelli knows addiction from the inside – he’s a recovering alcoholic who’s about 25 years sober. He plans to share his story with the school’s 13 graduating seniors– and to remind them that addiction is a disease, not a moral failing or a crime.
"I don't want them to be ashamed. I don't want them to feel the stigma that's often associated with having an addictive disorder. I want them to know that they should be proud and they really should be open and honest about their recovery," Botticelli said.
Hope Academy was founded in 2006 by Fairbanks, the addiction recovery organization, and it's one of just 21 similar schools nationwide. Substance abuse and addiction can wreck a student's academic career. And Hope Academy's CEO, Rachelle Gardner, said students face long odds of staying sober if they go back to their old high schools after treatment:
"It's something that schools are struggling with all over the country. When they return to that it's very difficult, and very few of them have the ability to sustain not going back to their old habit of using drugs and alcohol," Gardner said.
The national Association of Recovery Schools has developed an accreditation process, which could help other communities as they start similar programs. Later this month, Hope Academy will become one of the the first three schools to receive accreditation.