Known for its rich history, Philadelphia has boasted itself as one of the most significant cities in America. Amidst the sights of the Liberty Bell, and Independence Hall, looms an opioid and drug crisis that has gripped the inner workings of the city for years. In 2016, more than 900 people died from a drug overdose in Philadelphia. However, there is one school tucked off of infamous Broad Street that is using personal experience to provide a higher education and do something about these striking numbers.
Central to all stories of recovery from substance abuse is the theme of personal empowerment and transformation, and this program is doing just that. The Community College of Philadelphia’s Office of Collegiate Recovery (OCR) has worked in conjunction with community-based recovery services to help facilitate an individual’s transition into college while continuing to work on the lifelong recovery process.
A Mission For Recovery
“We’re right in the heart of the city. We’re a combination of what I call traditional collegiate recovery and workforce initiates,” states Professor Pascal Scoles, Director of the Office of Collegiate Recovery. “We’ve been around since 1986. Initially it was our behavioral health and addiction studies program where people in recovery wanted to become counselors. When we were awarded Transforming Youth Recovery grant and became more associated with collegiate recovery, it gave us the opportunity to expand, our educational support services to include the total community college student body and recruit students from the City of Philadelphia’s recovery community.”
The Office of Collegiate Recovery is one of 14 student life services at the college. “What sets us apart from other collegiate recovery programs is that we report directly to the Dean of Students. Our support and mentoring staff have a mission around recovery,” noted Scoles. In addition to Professor Scoles, are two academic mentors working alongside him to run the mentoring and support groups and facilitate connections with other programs in the college.
Student driven with the direction of it’s monumental staff, student’s in the program are required to take part in a series of four-eight-hour seminars. The seminars range in topic from conflict resolution, faith and spirituality, addictions and recovery, and youth advocacy. “We put everyone through these workshops and run them every term. At the end of the training, students are awarded a certificate because it’s approved as part of the colleges continuing education program in Behavioral Health and Human Services (BHHS).” Social workers, and psychologists are additionally invited because there’s a lot of people in the field who don’t know about what we do,” stated Scoles. “We also have recovery leadership classes available which develop college credits in BHHS.”
“We’re inside the college and then we’re also outside recruiting.'”
Currently there are 115 students participating in the program. Students are offered a plethora of comprehensive resources including, weekly peer-to-peer group meetings, individual coaching sessions, faculty coaching, support meetings, 12-step meetings, structured activities on and off campus, and access to the College’s many support services, including career counseling and tutoring. “I’m very happy with the way it’s running. We have two offices and a conference room and we’re hoping to get additional space over the next year,” remarked Professor Scoles.
And if that’s not enough to set a student up for success, the program and it’s students are often seen in the school cafeteria recruiting for the “recovery club,” catering to the needs of the individuals who may feel stigmatized by their history of alcohol or drug abuse. “We have a lot of different recovery groups. We have a variety of current or proposed support groups such as People of Color in recovery, and LGBTQ in recovery, etc. A lot of our services are reflective of the community we live in,” noted Scoles.
Pulling directly from the 25 recovery houses that exist in the city, one of the trademarks of the Office of Collegiate Recovery is their outreach approach. Students and staff both on campus and in the treatment programs funded by the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual DisAbility Services try to convey the message to incorporate an educational plan into a treatment plan which serves as the life force of the program. “We have this two prong approach. We’re inside the college and then we’re also outside recruiting people in the recovery houses in the city as well as the adolescent programs and the recovery high school,” noted Professor Scoles. “There’s so much stigma and prejudice towards people in recovery. If they currently are struggling, the Dean will refer students to our office for support and mentoring activities focused on recovery concerns. Other departments do not have the experience or staff credentials to handle students in need of recovery services. The recovery program can serve as an alternative to academic discipline. It can give a student in recovery a second chance.”
Creating A College Sub-Culture
With a combination of outreach programs in the community, internal programs, workforce and recovery centered around education, it is apparent that the Office of Collegiate Recovery embraces a student-first approach based on the principles of sobriety. “A lot of the time we sit down and coordinate with what the students want to do and what we want to do so that we have a consistent philosophy of service. Students come to support meetings with the academic mentoring staff and we talk about recovery and how it’s reinforcing to both students and staff,” said the Professor.
With the philosophy that education is a major cornerstone to recovery healing, the program offers much more than just an education, it has become a sub-culture on campus. “All of our sessions are student driven. We offer recovery yoga and meditation, and even a group called ‘Art in Recovery’,” Professor Scoles noted. Students also take part in the annual Philadelphia recovery walk as well as other city sponsored Walks that interact with the recovery community both on campus and in the city. Additionally, Narcan trainings are scheduled for the fall term. The Professor briefed, “We do Narcan training as part of collegiate recovery on campus because of the overdose potential in Philadelphia.”
In addition to the events and training’s, students learn self-advocacy skills needed to achieve lifelong goals by enhancing the availability, variety, and quality of local and regional recovery support. The Professor went on to add, “Most of our students are on government subsidized Pell-Grants, following graduation over 50% of them transfer into an undergraduate program. Some students complete an associate’s degree in a technical area and go directly into the workforce.”
“We even provided support to individuals during the Super Bowl win.”
It’s clear to see that the Community College of Philadelphia’s Office of Collegiate Recovery is providing much more than an education for these 115 students. As the future leaders against this pivotal drug crisis, they’re becoming leaders, advocates, and pioneers of tomorrow, and their next venture is working to develop a recovery support group with the Center for Veteran Affairs.
“Our students really amaze me. We’re not climbing mountains or going on skiing trips, but our students climb many emotional mountains in life and ski into a new life of recovery. It’s an urban college and we’re in the city. We even provided support to individuals during the Super Bowl win,” remarked the Professor.
While connecting education to recovery, this program centers itself as an outreach program to engage the recovery community and provide the benefits of a college experience. It’s driving force is to strengthen and support an individuals recovery plan, however with traverse student minds and the direction of Professor Pascal Scoles, it seem’s that there’s nobody that this Office of Collegiate Recovery can’t help.
Contact Information: To learn more about the Office of Collegiate Recovery at CCP please visit: https://www.ccp.edu/student-support/office-collegiate-recovery