Pasco high school offers 'safe place' for students battling addiction

A 17-year-old student at Victory High School in Pasco County said painting has become an outlet for her to express her struggles with trauma and addiction.

"I'm not really good at expressing myself with words so I do it through my artwork. I'm able to get out what I can't say," she said.

She didn't want to be identified. But she did want to talk about her journey to recovery at Victory High School. It's a year-round school that helps teens who have issues with substance abuse.

"I've been through a lot of trauma that led me to drug use, marijuana, alcohol. At first, I wasn't open to it but then I realized I do need this type of environment in my life," she explained.

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"What I've actually done is created a place that I needed that probably would have saved my life back then," said Tina Levene, the founder of Victory High.

She has been in their shoes.

"It brings tears to my eyes because, as a teenager, I needed a safe place and I didn't have a safe place. I didn't share with people what I was going through and I had been raped and I had been abused; I didn't share that until I was in my 20s and realized that not everybody goes through what I had gone through," Levene continued.

"I tell Miss Tina all the time that this is my only stable environment," said the 17-year-old.

Intern Laurel Minthorn has faced her own addiction battle. She is about to become a college graduate. She's setting an example for these students that they too can have a better future.

"When I was in recovery, I couldn't listen to somebody who just read it through the books. I needed somebody who had been there who had been through the things that I'd been through and could tell there is hope. No matter how far you've gone, there is hope," said Minthorn.

And it paints a brighter picture for these students.

"I know that I'm not the only one going through stuff so that gives me hope that I will be able to get better," said the 17-year-old.

Victory High is looking to expand the program to other counties. The school is hosting an art gala and auction fundraiser on Saturday, October 23rd at 6 p.m. For information on tickets, visit

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