Recovering from addiction is a major uphill battle – especially in the peer pressure environment of high school.
So when Eileen Shewen recognized the struggle many teen victims of alcohol or drug abuse faced within a school setting, she launched Canada’s first recovery high school, Quest. It’s a quaint one-building space, 90 minutes north of Toronto in the town of Midland, Ontario, and currently serves five full-time students.
The requests for enrollment, however, are rapidly rising.
“Not one agency or one person said that it was a really dumb thing to do. Everybody knows that these kids need this,” said Shewen about the project.
The school currently has room for 40 students, with 15 beds, and offers plenty of amenities and loose ‘house rules’ to encourage students to take responsibility for their own actions. Inspirational posters line the walls, smoke breaks and naps are allowed, and healthy eating habits are encouraged.
Empowerment, rather than punishment, is what we should offer young people who’ve succumbed to addiction.
The operation is privately run; Shewen committed $180,000 to renovating the previously dilapidated building and launching the Quest charitable organization. Understandably, it will require public funding to sustain its program.
The results, so far, have been incredibly encouraging.
Students’ grades are improving, they’re getting the necessary attention they need, learning how to cook, and, most importantly, are surrounded by a support system that tackles all of the side effects of their addiction – including paranoia, anxiety, depression, self harm and suicidal thoughts.
As a bonus, the benefit is a two-way street: “I learn something from these kids every day about humanity,” says Shewen in an interview with The Toronto Star.