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The Value of an Archway Education – How a Successful Recovery High School Keeps Its Integrity

BALM | June 4, 2017

Welcome to Part Two of a Four Part Series on how one community and a growing number of other communities are bringing recovery deeply into the lives of its teens both through a specific recovery high school experience and through the Alternative Peer Group experience which together elevate the power of recovery in the lives of teens and their families.

Part One was: Welcome to Archway Academy – How the day begins.  

Part two is : How Archway does academics

Part three will be: How APG’s are changing the lives of young people

Part Four: Generation Found – the movie that tells the story of hope for teens in recovery

– all of these in future editions of the BALM weekly newsletter and on this blog page of http://www.familyrecoveryresources.com

I remember 3 things about being a high school principal most strongly:

  1. the pressure on adolescents to decide on and get ready for college or other next steps
  2. the emotional roller coaster many teens are on as a result of the pressure and all of their own internal and external stresses
  3. how a struggle with substances completely took over some of my students’ lives throwing everything into a tail spin – often with very little understanding of what was going on in them available in the people around them

When we visited Archway two weeks ago,  the complete availability of understanding in the form of purposeful, loving, focused help for recovering teens, is what hit me most profoundly. Yet the thought did occur: How do they get any work done?

Here is what I discovered:

Archway is  a full high school with a rolling admission policy. This means the school has a flexible curriculum that allows them to catch up on work they missed prior to being admitted into the school. Having a school that works, starts with the admissions policy. Students come into Archway through an introductory program called  Passageways (minimum one day sober) which allows them to transition into an academic environment seamlessly. Once they have a specific amount of sobriety and readiness, they are eligible to matriculate into the full program. (For more info on the admissions criteria of the school, click here.) The teachers are all educators and, though some are in recovery as well, their focus in the classroom is teaching the academic subject they are hired to teach.

All of this is possible because of the amazing amount of support backing up the educational process. There are recovery coaches on staff full time who are available to work with students who are having a hard time behaving or handling sobriety in a classroom setting. And all students in the school are expected to belong to an APG (Alternative Peer Group – See the next article in this series to learn more about APG’s) But in class, education rules. In other words, students are there to learn their academic subjects so they are prepared for their next steps in life.

During our visit, we spent time in classrooms, watching as teachers kept students on track with their work, while maintaining a level of easygoing respect. The set-up allowed for just what people often need in early recovery: reliable structure, readily available support, and an absence of stigma.

A key to why and how this school works so powerfully is the level of presence of the administration, led by Executive Director, Sasha McLean, LMFT, LPC. Sasha’ presence is loving, understanding and clearly boundary and growth driven. This is a loving, NOT a tough love, approach. Students who struggle with their sobriety are given second chances if they are honest and willing to work on their struggles. They know that caring, well-trained adults have their back in a strong, loving, recovery-oriented way.

Her empowering stance on behalf of teens in recovery is awe-inspiring. So much so that a movie was made about the new trend of recovery schools with a strong focus on her and her school! (See article four in this series).

Ideally, a high school experience for teens in recovery addresses social, emotional, and academic needs. This school, by having the back up of APG’s and recovery coaches, in a strong academic environment where recovery is not only stigma free but also treasured, does just that!

Be A Loving Mirror!

Beverly A. Buncher, MA, PCC, MRLC, CTPC

Family Recovery Coach/CEO

Family Recovery Resources, LLC



786 859 4050