Rhode Island's first recovery high school opens

PROVIDENCE, RI – 17-year-old Edmund was ready for a change. He'd been in rehab. Tried a halfway house. And he relapsed again when he returned to Westerly high school.

"So I just had to make the decision: I can't live my life like this. So I just had to decide to come here," he said.

"Here" is The Providence Center's new Anchor Learning Academy. Edmund is a senior, and administrators here hope that with the right support, he and his classmates will make it to graduation, safe and sober. Like other recovery-focused schools around the country, the Anchor Learning Academy will combine academics with counseling and recovery meetings. Students will work on the regulars--math, English--in groups and virtually, but check in twice a day with a recovery adviser. And administrators hope to grow the inaugural class of four to 20.

Funding comes from the students' regular district allotment plus a grant from the Rhode Island Foundation. Providence Center spokesman Ian Lang says there's strong evidence that a program like this can give kids who struggle with addiction a better chance of succeeding as adults.

"The most exciting thing here is that when you get someone on track to graduate, when they get that high school diploma, you're changing the trajectory of their life," says Lang.

The Anchor Learning Academy is a pilot program and open to any Rhode Island student who's unable to thrive in traditional high schools because of substance abuse problems.

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