A monumental mission

There are roughly 27,000 high schools in the country. About 40 of them are considered Recovery High Schools. One of those, Mission High School, is in Nevada.  Located near Veterans Memorial Drive and Las Vegas Boulevard North, it’s the first school of its kind to be fully funded by public money. Like any high school in the country, students take English, science and math tests – but they also take drug tests. Mission High was created in 2017 for students with a history of drug and substance abuse. It’s a school dedicated not only to seeing students graduate but seeing them recover.

Inside the numbers

Most of us generally accept the fact substance abuse is a problem, but most of us don’t realize how big a problem. According to statistics from the American Addiction Centers, those between the ages of 12 to 20 consume more than 1/10th of all the alcohol consumed in the country. To put it in some perspective, that’s about 800 million gallons… every year. High school students in the U.S. abuse alcohol more than any other drug. 
Roughly half of high school students have used marijuana. 21% of 12th graders have smoked pot in the last 30 days. 1 in 16 high school seniors use marijuana every day. That may not seem like a lot, but it works out to nearly 950,000 students.

The opioid crisis in the country hasn’t spared high school students. After staying flat for a decade, the overdose death rate among U.S. adolescents nearly doubled from 2019 to 2020. One major factor in this increase is the supply of deadly drugs has found its way into what adolescents are using. Teens may think they’ve obtained an opioid painkiller, or Xanax, when it’s more likely to be a counterfeit tablet containing fentanyl, or similar synthetic opioids.

Promoting a purpose

Mission High School offers quality education and experienced counselors… literally. Students relate to many of the staff members because they’re recovering addicts themselves. The school’s drug and alcohol counselor, Rene Rehmel still attends 12-step meetings.

“By providing support, we have kids graduating and staying clean,” Rehmel says, “They set goals, they have a purpose.” 

To be admitted to the school, students are interviewed and complete an evaluation process. Parents meet with a marriage and family therapist. This way, all aspects of the relationship and addiction are defined. Rehmel believes it’s important for the public to know this is a disease that affects the entire family. Their parents need to commit to being involved and participating in their child’s counseling. A former student who returned to the school as a peer specialist says at Mission High, you don’t let the past define you. The person you are today, defines you. 

The SCE Credit Union connection

SCE Credit Union’s involvement is partly through their own nonprofit, the Center for Financial Empowerment. This financial-literacy-promoting organization puts on Mad City Money events, where volunteers play the role of utilities and lenders, and students take on the role of adults.

“Mad City Money is the most fun” says a smiling Rehmel. “They set up real life scenarios, so students get a hands-on experience of what it’s like to budget.” 

In real life, SCE Credit Union gives students help with financial products like checking accounts, or whatever else they need.

Mission possible

The students at Mission High need and deserve support. Most suffer from some form of trauma – they’ve been victims of domestic abuse; some were raised by parents who were addicts. The school simply refuses to write them off. One student says when she came in and opened up about her addiction, there weren’t judgments, just unconditional love and support. Dealing with addiction is an exercise in patience and persistence and doing it at a young age, while at the same time trying to finish high school, might seem like mission impossible.

Mission High School is here to prove otherwise.

Learn more at Mission High School