Sober College: Part Rehab, Part School

By Ben Feuerherd 03/26/13

A program mixing academia with addiction treatment helps young addicts get back on track.

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Diving back into life.

For young people in recovery, trying to get back into school can be daunting. Sober College, in Woodland Hills, California, is geared to help. Through a partnership with nearby Woodbury University, the program offers college-aged students "rehab and college under one roof," as its president, Robert Pfeifer, tells The Fix. After a combination of addiction treatment and academic courses roughly equivalent to one semester of college, students who earn a GPA of 3.0 or above are automatically accepted into Woodbury. Credits earned are also fully transferable: "At Sober College I've been given the opportunity to start taking college classes again," says 19-year-old Rachel. "I got into Indiana, which I'm considering going to next year." Sober College also helps teens who have dropped out of high school due to substance issues. Caitlyn, 18, says the program helped her get her GED so she could start taking college courses. "I didn't finish high school," she recounts. "My academic coach...helped me prepare for my GED and I got my GED...Since then I've been taking online classes at Pierce College." 

But recovery, both before and after graduation, isn't always smooth sailing—so the program takes a compassionate attitude to relapse. “Sometimes our past students are not always sober," says alumni director Jenna Patronete. "The goal is to protect those you have at our events but also support those who struggle.” To this end, the alumni association holds events like a recent trip for 28 grads to an LA Clippers game: “That way they can stay connected to each other and we can stay connected to them,” says Patronete. The college also offers indoor skydiving, sober dances, trips to amusement parks, numerous sports teams and a professional-grade recording studio. Pfeifer says one major goal is "teaching our students they can have fun in sobriety."

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Benjamin Feuerherd is a city reporter at the New York Post. He has previously worked for The Daily Beast and NBC. You can find him on Linkedin and Twitter

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