APEX students share stories of overcoming addiction

Makayla McCarty tears up after reading an essay she wrote about her recovery journey in class at the APEX Recovery School. The small school is part of the Rochester Public School system.
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When Abril received an assignment to write her biography, it was not just an interesting assignment — it was a novel request.

"No one has cared to hear my story before," she begins her composition.

A high school senior, Abril, 17, is at the APEX Recovery School to finish earning the credit she needs to graduate from high school. APEX is a school for students with addiction who are working to stay sober while earning school credit.

Instructors had the students write their own stories to help them recognize their own achievements in battling addiction. APEX teachers said they also hope the stories can change the perception young people who battle addiction often face.

"We find people don’t want to talk about addiction when it comes to kids," said Amy Stite, an APEX teacher. "People dismiss (young people’s) experiences or vilify them."


APEX staff and students are hosting a coffee and conversation event Jan. 31 at the Cambria Gallery, where some of the students will share their stories publicly.

Makayla McCarty, 17, said she receives scorn and judgment instead of encouragement when people learn she has struggled with substance abuse.

McCarty said her parents have been understanding and supportive, but outside APEX, she doesn’t find much encouragement.

"It’s this attitude of "you’re so young, you’re throwing your life away,’" she said. "It’s very harsh compared to an adult going to an (Alcoholics Anonymous) meeting."

Adults have bigger problems, she said she’s told.

Abril said she encounters the same denial or outright disbelief.

"People don’t want to hear about bad things," she said.

Writing her biography was relatively easy, McCarty said. She said she sank into depression as she isolated herself when her sister was in and out of the hospital with health problems. Not wanting to burden her parents with her problems while her sister was sick, she started using drugs. However, she also kept a journal. When it came time to write her assignment, she embraced it.


"It just kind of flowed out," she said. "It was nice."

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