“Going back to regular high school would be a really big trigger for me,” said Jesse Musco.
So Jesse Musco isn’t going back to regular high school. The Monmouth County teen is instead one of the first students enrolled at the new K.E.Y.S Academy. It’s the latest high school for students in addiction recovery.
“We believe we have the supports here to make this a success, to give students a second chance to meet with success in life and give them the ability to earn their high school diploma and go out in the world and do whatever they want and be a success at whatever they want,” said Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District Superintendent Joseph Majka.
Monmouth is one of the top six counties in the state with residents suffering from recovery or co-dependency issues. K.E.Y.S. uses space at Brookdale Community College. With the help of $1.3 million in state grant funding, secured by the Christie administration, it provides wrap around services and traditional learning along with one-to-one counseling.
“Our students are going to be working in a blended learning model. Which it means having a curriculum tailored specifically for them. For example, right now we have a senior, so while he’s here with us he’s also taking college credits so by June he’ll graduate and also be in a curriculum with Brookdale,” said Jennise Nieves, a student assistance counselor at Matawan Regional High School.
“For a teenager who has no place else to go except back to the original place that caused the problem in the first place, it’s a disaster on every level. As a mother who is going through this in my own life right now, I think what you see here is hope,” said Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.
In tear-filled remarks today, Guadagno said mechanisms are in place to ensure the total $2.3 million grant transitions smoothly with the new administration. In a tenure marked with ribbon cuttings, this ribbon cutting was her last.
“It’s been a very big struggle,” said Craig Fusco, who’s the father of someone in recovery. “A lot of times I tried to explain to my daughter that while you’re using, we’re using. And it was a struggle. It was a struggle for all of us. But now with these programs in place, it really, it really gave us hope.”
With four students enrolled right now, the K.E.Y.S. program is equipped to hold up to 15. That’s a mark they expect to hit, with a commitment to education and a life beyond addiction.