RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - It isn't an ordinary classroom, and the lessons learned there aren't limited to Shakespeare and the periodic table. McShin Academy is a sober learning environment, and the teens who attend are all battling substance abuse.
"I got my one-month clean last Saturday," said 16-year-old DJ Viglis.
Viglis has been going to the Academy, part of the McShin Foundation, for the past month after he was caught smoking weed on the bus home from school. Viglis said he'd also been using pills, opiates, and amphetamines to get high.
"When I smoked that weed on the bus, I realized it wasn't even about smoking weed or anything like that. I couldn't wait to get high, that was the top of my day. There's a problem where you depend on that," Viglis said.
Recovery is part of the lesson plan every day at the McShin Academy. Director Stephanie Trent says all seven of her students see coming to the
academy as an escape; a place where they can focus on their school work, without the temptation of drugs and alcohol.
"They either can't go to regular high school in their community, or they don't feel comfortable going there because they don't want to get high anymore," Trent said. "They have their using buddies or drug dealer sitting in class beside them. They come here and it's safe for them."
Homebound tutors come for eight to 10 hours a week, to help the students with course work.
Last spring, all attending students saw their grades improve, had no new criminal charges, and four seniors graduated.
Trent says the academy is about more than getting good grades. Her students learn coping skills to help them work through problems without turning to drugs or alcohol.
Viglis calls the program a close-knit family.
"It's not just about drugs. It's about going through the reasons why you used drugs, reasons why you continue to use them, and why you never stopped. It's just trying to get yourself in the mind frame where you don't want to use anymore," said Viglis.
Trent says she sees a lot of herself in her students. She too is in recovery and has been clean for 10 months. A feat she says in no small part is due to her students, who she learns from every day.
"These kids man, these kids keep me going. They really do! They keep me going. I want to keep fighting for them. They are my passion" said Trent. "This program means so much. McShin Academy, it's my heart."
For more information on the McShin Foundation, call (804) 249-1845.
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