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Hart District and Action partner for 'sober high school'

Program will help students returning from rehab

Posted: December 21, 2013 10:19 p.m.
Updated: December 21, 2013 10:19 p.m.

Carlyn, a local high school senior, began drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana with her friends.

It was a social activity, she said, one that she didn’t do alone.

But that didn’t stop her from getting into some trouble at school or being sent to counseling.

As of Friday, Carlyn hasn’t smoked marijuana or had a drink of alcohol in more than three months. But she knows some of her classmates and friends who have moved far beyond the stage of socialization and are now struggling with addiction.

The potential peer pressure to use has lingered, even months after Carlyn made the commitment to stay clean.

It’s situations like Carlyn’s that have led the Santa Clarita Valley’s junior high and high school district and a local organization focusing on drug and alcohol counseling and treatment to partner to create a new program that will offer further resources to students struggling with addiction.

The new program, called Action Academy, will help cater to students returning from drug or alcohol rehabilitation programs, as well as those who may already be struggling with addiction, according to Kathy Hunter, coordinator of student services for the William S. Hart Union High School District.

“We do have a lot of prevention programs, intervention programs and education programs,” Hunter said. “But one piece we realized we were missing was how to help students who went though rehab and now are sober and struggling to try and stay sober.”

Hunter said the idea for the academy was born partly out of conversations she’s had over the past year with Cary Quashen, the founder of Action Family Counseling, about how to augment the district’s existing substance abuse prevention and treatment programs.

“This has been a goal of mine for many, many years,” Quashen said of the program.

Action Family Counseling is also providing staff members to aid in the counseling components of the program.  
Quashen said the program will also help by giving students a structured environment where they can be among some of their peers and gain the resolve to stay sober when they return to their usual school.

“The same kids that got them into trouble need to be the same group that gets them out of trouble,” he said.
Carlyn agreed.

“I think something like Action Academy would be for the kids in high school who are still addicts,” she said. “But they can learn in a sober environment without the pressure of regular high school.”

A typical day for those at Action Academy will be split between therapy, reflection and academics.

Curriculum will be online, much in the same way the district offers instruction in its independent study program.

Those courses will be supervised by a teacher from the Hart district who is also a certificated counselor, according to officials.

“We’re looking into how we develop our curriculum and structure the day so the students get the best of what we can offer to them,” Hunter said.

The Action Academy program would provide an intermediate step for students who may be struggling with addiction. Students would attend the program in place of their school sites until they are prepared to return.

The program is expected to open at the start of the next school semester in mid-January and have an initial class of between 10 and 20 students, Hunter said.

But the goal is to expand the program in the future to help as many students as possible.

“We want to make sure we’ve got everything we need to be a top-notch program,” Hunter said.

Action Academy will be open to students in grades 7 through 12 and will be free, according to officials. The program will be housed in the Action Family Zone building on 20655 Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country.

The district recently won a Golden Bell Award from the California School Boards Association, which recognizes “outstanding programs and governance practices of school boards,” for its Comprehensive Alcohol and Drug Reduction and Education program.

“We continuously add to our program to make it as comprehensive as possible,” Hunter said.


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