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On the road to recovery. 10 teens graduate from one of a kind Chesterfield program

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Posted at 5:22 PM, May 16, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-16 19:00:53-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The path to high school graduation isn't always an easy one.

It's even harder for students who are also on the path to recovery from substance use disorder.

On Thursday, 10 seniors completed their recovery program from Chesterfield Recovery Academy, part of the academy's second graduating class.

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The academy is the only one of its kind in the Commonwealth, offering year-round programming for students in Virginia's Region One schools, which includes 15 different districts.

Students have group and individual therapy with clinicians who are tasked with helping them meet their recovery goals, while also working toward high school graduation.

"I was in the 11th grade, it was the middle of my junior year. I got in the wrong group of friends," said Nevaeh Chaisson, a new academy graduate. "I got on opioids and I started smoking a lot of marijuana. I was skipping school, getting in trouble, lying."

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Nevaeh Chaisson

Chaisson knew she wanted to get help, and after finding the program on her own, she enrolled.

"I wanted to definitely change for myself, but also for my family, because they'd seen so much more for me, and so did I," she said.

Her recovery story took her from the classroom to Washington, D.C., sharing her story of recovery alongside other students who were battling addiction beside her.

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"It's family. It's for sure family. I wouldn't trade anybody for the world here. I'm sure I'm going to keep in contact, even though I'm leaving, because they've guided me, they've helped me," Chaisson said. "They've helped me overcome heartbreaks, my recovery, they're here for anything that you need. It was a blessing for sure."

In its first year, the academy had four graduating seniors complete the program. This year, it was 10. Next year, coordinators expect to hit their class limit of about 30 students.

"The trend has always been there," said Justin Savoy, a program coordinator at the academy. "It's just that now the actual word is getting out, that they have a resource to help them, it's like a light for families. Because now, they feel like they're not alone and that they can have a support network for them as well."

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Justin Savoy

Programming is individualized, so students can go through the program and then return to their home schools.

Students from the Class of 2024 are going into the military, continuing their education, and joining the workforce.

Chaisson said she's glad she and her family chose to enroll in the academy, and now, she's encouraging other families to do the same.

"It gives me goosebumps," Chaisson said. "It amazes me how far I've come. And it amazes me to see the person I was last year compared to this year. I'm a completely different person and I'm so proud of who I became."

You can learn more about Chesterfield's Recovery Academy here.

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