Charlotte’s first Recovery High School to educate students, end social stigma
Charlotte, NC- August 17, 2019
The Emerald School of Excellence (ESE) held its official ribbon cutting ceremony Saturday, August 17, 2019 at Memorial United Methodist Church with a crowd of educators, volunteers, supporters and the local community cheering them on. The Emerald School of Excellence strives to educate high school students in recovery from a substance use disorder. Through faith, fellowship and fitness the new high school will provide a safe and educational environment for students to learn while continuing their journey through recovery with peer to peer support.
Mary Ferreri, the Director and Founder of Emerald School and a previous Charlotte Mecklenburg High School P.E. teacher, had a vision in 2016 to bring a resource to Charlotte and the Carolinas after experiencing the loss of many students and young people in her community. And though her personal experience with mental health conditions in her own family coupled with her drive and determination to be part of the solution for our youth, Ferreri assembled a group of addiction professionals, educators, business professionals and community volunteers to plan and develop the foundation of a recovery high school. Modeled after Archway Academy in Houston, TX and other successful recovery high schools in the nation, Ferreri and her team of volunteers worked tirelessly for three years to fundraise and execute a plan for a school. Emerald School serves students after they have at least 30 consecutive days of sobriety and who need a different learning environment to work in conjunction with their recovery process.
Speakers at the event included Ferreri herself, who stated, “to see all of you today standing before me after we have worked so hard to bring this much needed resource to this community, I feel confident that we will not just open a school, but we will do it well. We all belong on this journey together, and for the first time in my life I have found my tribe, I know where I belong.” Chris Love, Substance Abuse Counselor and Peer Mentor at ESE, also believes this is just where he is supposed to be, and to be authentic and meet young people in recovery right where they are and develop skills to thrive in long term recovery. Donald McDonald, American Recovery Activist, also spoke at length about what the research tells us about addiction and recovery and what should be included as part of the best care for individuals with substance use disorders. “In a perfect world, we can prevent childhood trauma and mental disorders. In a perfect world, everyone would have healthy communities and access to healthcare. In a perfect world, we could prevent adolescent alcohol and drug use. In this perfect world addiction doesn’t exist! This perfect world does not exist. I will tell you what does exist: The Emerald School of Excellence”, stated McDonald.
Kurtis Taylor, the Executive Director of Alcohol Drug Council for North Carolina, traveled from Raleigh, NC to share the good news of the opening of Emerald School and mentioned “how big a moment this is for our state.” Other speakers included Elyse Powell, State Opioid Coordinator at NC Department of Health and Human Services who shared some beautiful words from a young person in recovery who successfully completed a Recovery High School. The ceremony closed with Katelynn Ledford-McCoy and Kallup McCoy II who both operate a ministry for young people who have experienced addiction and who are working to rebuild their lives.
After the ribbon cutting ceremony, guests toured the school and classrooms which have been completely transformed from white walls and empty rooms into inviting spaces highlighted by accent wall murals by artist, Abstract Dissent. Using a spray paint technique to hand paint and create uplifting images of hope and redemption through his art and expression, one of the walls incorporates two hands holding an Emerald, the symbol of the school which signifies how special and unique each student is, with perhaps undiscovered talents. The Emerald represents a balance of peace, healing and reflection as students progress in their journey of sobriety. Much of the furniture was donated by Queens University and also through private donations and the ESE team fundraising. The outfitted classrooms complete with business tables and computers will welcome the students this fall to a recovery friendly and engaging atmosphere filled with love, support and compassion.
The location for the Recovery High School is on Central Avenue near uptown Charlotte at Memorial United Methodist Church and is strategically and centrally located to serve students and families in Charlotte and the surrounding areas. The church and community has welcomed the Emerald School and ESE plans to serve 10 students in their first year with room for growth in upcoming years. Part of the curriculum includes movement learning as noticeable by the workout equipment in some of the classrooms since the team believes that exercise and learning work hand in hand and further supports recovery of mind, body, and soul.
With recovery coaches on staff, peer to peer support for students and planned family friendly after-school and weekend activities through collaborative efforts in the community, these key differentiators for ESE will help students and their families in the continuum for care. The Emerald School of Excellence also aims to bring awareness and education to the community on the disease of addiction and how it affects our youth through community events. Through education and communication, ESE hopes to end the social stigma and shame that may be associated with those who have substance use disorders.
Applications are currently being accepted for the 2019-2020 school year. For more information, please contact Mary Ferreri, Director of The Emerald School of Excellence or visit www.emeraldschool.org.