NEW PORT RICHEY, Fla. - The Calvary Chapel Worship Center in New Port Richey is home to a unique school. Nine teens, ages 14 to 19, will fill the chairs as the first students of Victory High School, the first in the area for Florida Recovery Schools of Tampa Bay, a non-profit private school.
"We actually empower students that are struggling with addictions and we provide recovery support, mental health services, and education," said founder and executive director Tina Levene.
She understands the journey of the students coming to this school.
"I was a victim of rape and childhood trauma and I struggled with learning disabilities throughout school. I started using substances at 9 years old and at 14 I was drinking and at 19 I was addicted to alcohol and drugs," said Levene. "I was able to quit, through the help of 12-step recovery programs, at 23 years old, and I accomplished receiving my Bachelor's degree."
She saw a need for kids who have similar struggles.
"I recognized that there wasn't many services for young people and a lot of the 12-step recovery meetings were older people and people who had lived experience, so I knew that there was a need for young people to have a voice but also that they receive services, especially for mental health,"Levene continued.
She took a concept that started in Jacksonville and brought it to Pasco County.
"This is the greatest need. This is ground zero. When you look at the statistics throughout the whole state, even nationwide, this is ground zero for the opioid epidemic and it's an opportunity to actually save lives and that's exactly what we're going to do," said Levene.
All students share a common denominator.
"They're going to be diagnosed with substance use disorder. It may be through adolescent drug treatment, it may be from their primary care physician, it may be from even the school," said Levene.
One of the goals of this school is to restore.
"What we have found with adolescents that have substance abuse disorder is that they have had some sort of childhood trauma. So what we want to do is we want to address that trauma first and foremost because if you address that trauma and start to heal that from the inside out then you're not going to have anger and criminal behavior and addictions and all of that."
Another goal is to revive.
"The day starts with a mental health check-in and then we'll have meditation -- positive affirmations and prayer, depending on that youth. We're an interfaith school so we meet students where they're at," said Levene.
And rebuilding through creativity.
"They're also going to be involved with expressive art therapy, they're going to do creative writing where they actually write their own stories because that's important in recovery to be able to see where you've been and where you're at today."
It's a second chance before it's too late.
"This is life or death. Addictions are life or death and we really want to provide them a safe healing centered environment so that they can actually receive all of the therapy that they need as well as the support they need," Levene added.
LINK: For more information about Victory High School and Florida Recovery Schools of Tampa Bay, http://floridarecoveryschoolsoftampabay.com/