When Rebecca Bonner’s daughter was struggling with a substance use disorder, the closest recovery high school she could find was in Boston, a ways away from their home near Philadelphia. Instead of uprooting her entire family, Bonner thought of a different solution – opening her own recovery high school.
Bonner opened the Bridge Way School in 2011 in Roxborough, which is a neighborhood of Philadelphia. Bridge Way enrolls about 10 to 12 students a year. These students participate in daily “check-ins,” in which they talk about their needs. They also attend group therapy four times a week, and before they leave school for the day, they must participate in a “check-out” process in which they vocalize their own personal goals, or set up personal goals if they do not currently have any. 92 percent of students at the Bridge Way School decide to pursue a higher education after they graduate, and 86 percent of students remain completely abstinent from drugs and alcohol.
The Bridge Way School does not have a zero tolerance policy, which I found very interesting considering a huge percentage of their students successfully remain abstinent. Bonner said if a student at the school does use substances, they focus on making it a “teachable moment,” rather than expelling the student.
Bonner added that the best support for students in recovery are other students.
“It is peer pressure in the best way possible,” she said.
High school students often struggle to stay in recovery because after leaving treatment, they normally return to the environment where they used substances in the first place. This causes high rates of relapse among high school students. Recovery high schools make it possible for students to avoid relapse and engage in healthier lifestyles, both physically and mentally speaking.