Visiting P.E.A.S.E. Academy
A significant part of what makes MTCS such a remarkable school system is the depth and diversity of the programing we do. On Wednesday, April 24th, I visited P.E.A.S.E. and it proved to be nothing less than remarkable.
Relationships are everything–it allows you to have real conversation, find common ground, provide help and support for someone, and to restore broken relationships. It’s the cornerstone of the work we do at MTCS and why I value taking the time to visit all MTCS programs. Talking with students, getting to know them, their journey, their stories are all essential in making their experience meaningful and rewarding.
In visiting P.E.A.S.E., I am once again reminded that the programs throughout MTCS are making a difference, for the better, in the lives of the students we serve. With today’s P.E.A.S.E. visit, students credited their ongoing work at P.E.A.S.E. as a key factor for being alive today, and having restored healthy relationships with the families they love. Peers Enjoying A Sober Education is helping students to overcome some of life’s toughest challenges and sustain a sober, healthy, and rewarding lifestyle filled with hope and opportunity.
What is P.E.A.S.E. All About?
P.E.A.S.E. is a place for Peers Enjoying A Sober Education and the students we talked to expressed great importance on showing up at P.E.A.S.E., every day, to stay on track, even to stay alive. Additionally, students want and expect their peers to show up, sober, and take seriously the work needing to be done.
Admittedly, many of the students stated that when they first arrived they were angry, defiant, and did not want to engage. However, after continuing the journey at P.E.A.S.E., students turn a corner and and start to believe that sobriety is possible and attainable. Many of the students at P.E.A.S.E. have had profound experiences of loss, being let down by schools, adults, peers, even themselves, and they work hard to get and stay healthy even if they need to try and try again. If they relapse, there is no shame, only care, concern, and dedication to getting students safe and healthy.
Students share that ALL adults at P.E.A.S.E. are accessible, take the time to sincerely get to them as individuals, and genuinely care and are committed to helping and supporting each and every individual. Additionally, students transition from feelings of isolation and anger to a strong sense of belonging, acceptance, and a belief that can and will live a sober and satisfying lifestyle.
Students also shared their value for, and support of, one another. They expressed how they formed new friendships and now know that it really is possible to have fun with peers while embracing sobriety. What really resonated was that all students shared the journey of having strained relationships, filled with lies, shame, and significant risk, to now having loving, supportive, honest, and trusting relationships with family and friends while sober. In summary, students believe in P.E.A.S.E. because the people at P.E.A.S.E. believe in the students.
“P.E.A.S.E. is safe—I can talk to any of the staff if I have any kind of struggle. Teachers were the first people to befriend you, when you start school here. They understand addiction and see the deeper stuff–they really want to know how you are,” Claire said.
“P.E.A.S.E. isn’t like any other school. I like how it’s structured a little bit like a treatment facility but you can leave. The staff truly care about you. We can actually know our teachers well,” David said
Emily shared her experience in a small, rural school, where staff not only didn’t know how to help her with her addiction, but also were part of the problem. It took Emily and her mother meeting Michael Durchslag, P.E.A.S.E. Director, to get her into a sober house in Minneapolis so she could go to school at P.E.A.S.E. and rebuild her life–at only seventeen.
Durchslag reaches out to schools and recovery programs all around the state, and it is typical that it is some kind of connection with him that brings students to P.E.A.S.E.
How Has P.E.A.S.E. Helped Students On Their Journey?
It’s difficult at first–no one wants to come to P.E.A.S.E. But the small community where everyone knows what they are struggling with, what they need is an important beginning. And with that comes the sense of connection and relationship.
P.E.A.S.E. is like a supportive family where people seem to understand you and not judge you, and support you.
“I lost all my friends, didn’t leave my house except to go to school. I just wanted to die, I didn’t have any connections. I came to P.E.A.S.E. a few days a week at first; I was so angry and was failing my classes. But then I started opening up. I took a 2 week grief break—then came back to P.E.A.S.E. and now I go to school every day and I am getting all A’s and it’s amazing to me!” Alex shared.
What Ideas Do Students Have For Families Facing Issues Of Addiction?
P.E.A.S.E. is a lot more than sobriety, it’s a caring community, friendships, and activities. “They really try to help us have fun. Our prom is so great, and they do a lot of fundraising to give us great opportunities. They get everyone involved, including parents,” one student shared.
It’s a new normal, but a healthy one, and every student in our circle said that their relationship with their parents has been restored since coming to P.E.A.S.E. and dealing with their recovery. “You gain your parents’ trust back; they see that you are better. The contrast in you: kid on dope, kid not on dope. We get our families back.“
At MTCS schools, including P.E.A.S.E., you get to be who you are–it’s our commitment to students. We want to communicate this far and wide—we have a place where you can belong. We will meet you where you are and help give you what you need. Every student has different needs and it’s our job as educators to see each student and what they need to thrive. I think we’re very good at that at MTCS.
“I have a choice not to use,” Neil said. P.E.A.S.E. helped him get there, and helps him every day with the tools to help him keep making that choice.
“People really care about me here,” Emily said. And that makes all the difference.
From Superintendent Erlandson