Recovery program helps Knox Co. high schoolers stay sober, get on path to graduate

A new program, called “Elevate,” has given four Knox County high school students a fresh start for those who have a drug and/or alcohol addiction.
Elevating Students to Recovery
Published: Oct. 18, 2021 at 7:56 PM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - A new program, called “Elevate,” has given four Knox County high school students a fresh start for those who have a drug and/or alcohol addiction.

The program is helping teens stay sober and work to earn their high school diplomas.

Knox County Schools and the McNabb Center teamed up to focus on students’ academics, and social and emotional needs.

According to a 2019 Community Health Assessment for Knox County, 6.4 percent of middle school students and 13 percent high school students report they have taken a prescription pain medicine without a doctor’s prescription.

The same report states 8.2 percent of middle school students have used marijuana and 20.7 percent of high school students have used marijuana at least once during the past 30 days.

The report also states 25.2 percent of high school students in Knox County reported being current alcohol users.

“We’re looking for folks who are just ready to take that step, to just say it’s ok to not be ok. And be vulnerable and brave in doing that,” said Daphne Odom, who is supervising the Elevate program and recruiting families to join.

Odom wanted to de-stigmatize addiction and recovery.

“It’s hard to get kiddos and families here because the stigma around addiction and sobriety is so strong.”

According to Janet Jenkins, who is the Senior Director of Department of Children’s Service Programming at the McNabb Center, students who participate in this type of program “are about three times more likely to be successful in their sobriety.”

It’s all located in one building off Sutherland Avenue, so students don’t report to their base high school. Instead, they come to the Elevate building each day and start by doing academics online in the morning, before taking a break, then doing therapy and other recovery work in the afternoon.

Jenkins said each student has an individual treatment plan including solo and group therapy.

Students also have a case manager that goes to their homes to help their parents learn to do things that are safe and fun, especially on weekends.

“There’s sometimes a lot of rebuilding of relationships that we have to do. So to give the parents a little bit of help so they don’t always have to be the bad guy can go a long way too,” said Jenkins.

Jenkins explained all of the students are passing drug screenings now, which wasn’t the case when they first began this school year.

“It’s so rewarding to be able to see them come in and be excited on a Monday to take a drug screening or to talk about what they did over the weekend and it be really positive things,” said Jenkins. “They are hopeful about their education in a way that they’ve never been before. They really see graduating as a possibility now.”

More than $200,000 has been given to the Elevate program. Thanks to community partners, the Knox County Mayor’s Office, Knoxville Mayor’s Office, the Boyd Foundation and many others, this program is possible.

The goal is to help up to 10 high schoolers this year and 20 students next school year.

Elevate relies on students to refer themselves to the program. If you or your student is interested, you can learn more here.

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