Bridge Way School in Roxborough: a ‘sanctuary’

For many kids, schools double as pharmacies — the place where they can buy and supply drugs.

Rebecca Bonner knew she couldn’t send her daughter, who was beginning her recovery from substance use, back to her old school. But the closest recovery high school she could find was a five-hour car ride away in Boston.

So, in 2011, Bonner founded The Bridge Way School, a recovery high school in Roxborough that has about 10-12 students per academic year.

Bonner said the school’s operations are based on a “sanctuary model.” Every day, the school meets to discuss what the students did the night before and what their day was like, a chance to “take people’s temperature” before negative thoughts manifest themselves in nonproductive ways at school. There’s also a process group that meets four times a week so students can learn about refusal and life skills. At the end of each day, teachers and administrators make sure to talk to each student face-to-face about their after school plans. 

92 percent of Bridge Way’s students attend college and 86 percent of them maintain total abstinence. 

Despite hopeful statistics that show real change, Bonner doesn’t think the school is talked about enough and has faced serious pushback from the School District of Philadelphia. 11 out of 12 students last year were from suburbs outside of Philadelphia.

This point stuck out to me the most from Bonner’s talk with the class. Why is the school district in a city where 900 people died of drug overdoses in a year denying a solution that has been proven effective? You could sense Bonner’s frustration during class, and it’s difficult not to share it.

The importance of journalism is not only to appeal to administrations, representatives and people in power. Its work is for the commonwealth and everyday people. This project, and solutions journalism as a whole, can hopefully shed some light on solutions proven to be working that people will demand in their own neighborhood.

About the author

Grace Shallow

Grace Shallow is a sophomore journalism student at Temple University in Philadelphia. On paper, she is the deputy features editor for The Temple News, an intern for WHYY’s PlanPhilly and a contributor for the Spirit News with previous work at her hometown’s paper, Cinn City News. Contact Grace at tug14374@temple.edu.

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