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What is a recovery high school?


As described by the Association of Recovery Schools, “…Recovery high schools are secondary schools designed specifically for students in recovery from substance use disorder or co-occurring disorders. Although each school operates differently depending on available community resources and state standards, each recovery high school shares the following goals:


  • The primary purpose of a recovery high school is to educate and support students in recovery from substance use disorder or co-occurring disorders.

  • Recovery high schools must meet state requirements for awarding a secondary school diploma, i.e., school offers credits leading to a state-recognized high school diploma and the student is not just getting tutored or completing work from another school.

  • Intent that all students enrolled be in recovery and working a program of recovery from substance use disorder or co-occurring disorders as determined by the student and the school.

  • All students are working on an abstinence-focused program of recovery as agreed upon by the student and the school.


The staff of recovery high schools most often includes administrative staff, teachers, substance misuse counselors, and mental health professionals who each play a critical role in supporting their students. Additionally, recovery high schools provide support for families learning how to live with, and provide support for, their teens entering the recovery lifestyle.”

Why build a recovery high school in Chicago?  

Here are the facts:

  • In a nationwide study, 100% of teens who return to school after residential treatment were offered drugs on their first day.

  • The city of Chicago had no residential adolescent substance use disorder treatment programs and just three outpatient programs. 

  • Over 80% of youth arrested in Cook County had drugs in their system at the time of arrest.

  • The great majority of adolescents in Chicago who use drugs are in schools.

  • Early and heavy teen substance use increases high school dropout rates.

  • Adolescents in Chicago who drop out of school are at an increased risk of involvement with the criminal justice system.

  • Heavy marijuana smokers in Chicago were at a higher risk of becoming heroin users


It was obvious that a recovery high school would benefit Chicago.


Armed with this information, Serenity Academy Chicago was established with the mission to provide access to education in an environment that promotes life-long recovery from substance use and programs that offer youth and their families a renewed sense of community and connection.

As we stand committed to realizing our founders’ vision and focusing on our mission, we are working to develop alternative peer group programs in existing high schools to support our youth.  The knowledge we gain from these programs, other recovery high schools in the United States and experts in the field will inform the next steps. 


If you need more information on us or recovery high schools, contact us at or go to the  Association of Recovery Schools website at

You are welcome to visit or contact us for updates on the initiative!

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