Diana Zoga

McKinney's Public High School for Students in Recovery Gets a New Home

Serenity High School, a public school designed to support students recovering from addiction, is celebrating a move to a permanent space with a ribbon cutting celebration this Saturday.

Since it opened in 1999, Serenity High operated out of a small cluster of portable classrooms. This fall, in its 20th year, the school moved into a small facility on the McKinney North High School campus where students have their own entrance and exit and work with teachers in two multi-use classrooms.

Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings are held on campus along with group sessions. Students are also required to get involved in community service.

"We have community service for them to be involved in, so they can learn to give back," Principal Stephen Issa said. "All of these things are designed to support their recovery, rebuild their self-esteem and help them be givers back to the community."

Enrollment at Serenity High is open to students from 11 other partnering districts that have agreed to help pay per-day tuition fees.

Students have to complete a treatment program and an interview before they are admitted.

"What we're trying to determine in that interview is whether or not that student is prepared to be an active contributor to this program," Issa said. "We're a school but we're also a recovery community."

Issa said the small school, which has 10 students right now, has a staff of three teachers who help students through self-guided coursework.

Since 1999, Issa said the program has graduated 287 students.

One of the students is 17-year-old Billy Manjieri.

"In April of last year, I wasn't sure if I was going to graduate at all to be honest," Manjieri said.

His mom, Anna, said a marijuana habit had taken her son's motivation.

"Not doing good in school, failing and being expelled," Manjieri said. "Just not on a good path."

Billy entered a treatment program, then Serenity High, last fall during his junior year.

He said he thrived in the self-paced environment. In May, Manjieri graduated with his high school diploma a year early.

"Graduating a year early is really something special that a lot of students don't get to do. I didn't really have the best track record for school, but now I have something to be proud of," he said.

"It was a very proud mama moment," Anna Manjieri said. "The kids really went through struggles and challenges that other kids don't normally."

She said she's proud to share her son's experience and let other families know there are options for young people recovering from addiction.

"We're proud of our kids, we're proud of what we've done for our kids," Manjieri said. "I like telling people about it, that there is a choice out there."

This Saturday, McKinney School Resource Officer Curtis Logan will host a charity motorcycle ride to help support the Serenity High School program. Registration will start at 8:30 a.m. Saturday at Serenity High School's campus, located on the southwest corner of the McKinney North High School campus at 2550 Wilmeth Road in McKinney.

It costs $20 per rider or $30 for two people on one bike. 

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