INDIANAPOLIS — Teens who have substance use disorders are at a much higher risk of dropping out of high school, that's according to the executive director of Indiana's only recovery high school, Hope Academy.
Now, a new partnership is bringing more resources to their classrooms to help address the challenges students they serve face.
As a teenager, Sarah Platt started using drugs and alcohol.
"At the time, I was just so sad and nothing really made me happy. I didn't have a lot of hope for the future. I didn't have goals," Platt said.
After going to treatment, she found out about Hope Academy. She said she remembers telling her parents she didn't think she had a chance at her old high school.
"I didn't think I would be able to be sober and do what I need to do," she said. That's when she began attending Hope Academy as a junior.
"I felt like a weight had been lifted like I finally would be able to go somewhere where people understood what it felt like," Platt said.
"Students that struggle with substance use disorder, they've really impacted their brain and really changed the way the brain functions, so short term memory loss, their inability to concentrate, higher levels of depression and anxiety," Hope Academy Executive Director Rachelle Gardner explained.
At Hope Academy, they focus on individualized support with smaller classrooms of up to eight to ten students in order to provide a strong teacher and student relationship.
Gardner says there are about 23 million individuals 12 and older struggling with substance use disorder across the country, but only about 10% get the help they need.
"Students that are using substances typically have that pathway to a dropout rate," she said.
Through a new partnership with Simon Youth Foundation students and staff at Hope Academy will soon benefit from additional resources. Hope Academy, which is located on Madison Avenue on the city's south side is the newest Simon Youth Academy in Indiana.
"Each year about a million students drop out of high school. So through this partnership, we are going to be able to provide additional resources to the students and teachers at Hope Academy. This includes professional development for teachers. We have a Simon Youth Scholarship program." Lauren Rapp with Simon Youth Foundation said.
Simon Youth Academies are non-traditional high schools, many are located in Simon malls.
Simon Youth Foundation was recently awarded a $358,000 student recovery grant from the Indiana Department of Education that will support the ten Simon Youth Academies across the state. It will help with post-secondary scholarships, teacher development, student college visits, as well as student resources and technology
"I'm honored to be able to run a school that provides something different for them and really fills a gap that this community really needs," Gardner said.
Since graduating, Platt is now a peer specialist at Hope Academy working directly with students facing the same struggles she once faced.
"It's so empowering to be able to look at those people and not only see myself years ago but to see the hope that they can't see," Platt said.
Hope Academy accepts students year-round, 48% of students live in Marion County and 36% live in Hamilton County, the rest live in Johnson or Hancock County.
Hope Academy also has two buses for students to use for transportation that pick them up in common areas off the interstate in Carmel, Westfield, Fishers and Greenwood.