Nestled in the hills of Roxborough on Freeland Street inside a synagogue is The Bridge Way School. The school opened in the fall of 2011 for kids fighting to overcome addiction.
"Kids in recovery come in pretty raw and they are working really hard on their sobriety. The longer they're sober, the more success they're having, and you just see kids bloom in front of your eyes," said Rebecca Bonner.
Rebecca Bonner, Founder and Head of School, started Bride Way after battling her own daughter's drug addiction. She changed her life to help save the lives of other addicted children.
"Elly was really sick. In 2007, my youngest daughter developed an addiction to prescription pills," Bonner said. "She had all the typical signs of changing friends, her attitude changed; she was failing out of school. Things that were just not her," she said.
Rebecca says Elly went into a dark space for about six weeks. Her body frame changed from a size 8 to a size 2.
"So I honestly was watching my daughter die before my eyes," Bonner said.
After months of treatment and rehab, Rebecca, who was also a teacher, reluctantly sent her daughter back to her high school where she ultimately relapsed.
"This is not a slam against schools, I think schools are doing as much as they can but the drug problem is really pervasive and for my daughter as well as for many kids. Her local high school had been her pharmacy of choice," Bonner said.
Rebecca said the thought of sending her back to her local high school became terrifying.
Rebecca's daughter is now sober and in college. Wanting the same for other kids, she left her job, put together a team of board members, raised money and opened Bridge Way after learning about recovery schools in other states. Her students are all battling some form of the disease of addiction.
The school provides a standard education with a curriculum of arts math, science, social studies and English.
The school also has a major focus on tools for recovery. For example, there's routine drug testing and a full time counselor on staff.
"So that kids can say they did have a fight with mom on the way, did they make it to a meeting last night, just to identify any red flags that may get in their way of learning during the day," Bonner said.
Every day starts and ends with a 15 to 20 minute check in and check out session with Rebecca.
Students range in age from 14 to 18 years old. In group sessions, they talk candidly about addiction, and sobriety and the school that's helping keep them on the right track.
Rebecca says in a normal school setting this type of positive communication similar to therapy likely wouldn't happen.
"There's peer support and the kids go to meetings together and nobody feels awkward talking about their sponsor or that they're working on step four because everybody is doing it," Rebecca said.
The problem is not all children struggling with addiction will get this opportunity. There are only about 30 recovery schools in the United States. None of them are in New York, Baltimore or Washington, DC. The closest one to Philadelphia is in Minneapolis.
That is heartbreaking news to Rebecca, who in just three years of opening Bridge Way has so many success stories.
"There are six kids in college who would not otherwise be. There are 4 kids who will be going this year to college next year. They've already been accepted already ready to go. One young man is out there doing a great job as an EMT serving his community. These are kids who were lost and aren't anymore," Bonner said.
Like a 16 year old who says Bridge Way is allowing him to be an inspiration to other young addicts.
"I believe like one person can make a difference and like us, right now, we are, because we're doing it and it's showing other people that they can as well," he said.
Bridge Way is a private, tuition based school but Rebecca says that shouldn't stop families from applying because most of her students are on some sort of scholarship.
Some school districts even pay to send students here.
For more information about the school, click here.
Thursday (85/64): Iso. Storms
After a nice stretch of weather, gradual changes in temperatures and humidity expected.
Thursday (85/64): Iso. Storms