Jimmy Wright receives the Governor’s Award for founding First Recovery High School in the Triangle

Seeing a child struggle with alcohol or other drug addictions can be heartbreaking for parents. Jimmy Wright, director of operations and planning at Campus Enterprises, knows this feeling very well. He and his wife Leah experienced it with one of their sons.

“When we went through that, it was very difficult and pretty hopeless — it seemed because there weren’t any resources out there,” Jimmy said. “When kids got into trouble, kids got kicked out, they were told they just couldn’t go to school anymore.”

The pain of this experience and a desire to help other families facing similar challenges prompted Jimmy and Leah to found Wake Monarch Academy, the premier school of recovery in North Carolina’s Research Triangle region.

They took everything they learned and wanted to turn it into something positive for other people going through the same thing.

“Wake Monarch Academy is designed for students recovering from drug use, providing them with a safe and supportive environment where they can be with their peers and work towards pursuing their high school graduation, but also receive the recovery support they integrated throughout the school day,” said Leah, the school’s executive director.

On October 25, Jimmy received the Governor’s Award for Public Service in recognition of his work with Wake Monarch Academy. He was a candidate for one of NC State’s 2022 Awards for Excellence, for which he was nominated by several of his colleagues at Campus Enterprises, including Jennifer Gilmore.

“Like many families, mine has grown around loved ones who are struggling with addiction,” said Gilmore, director of marketing and communications for Campus Enterprises. “It’s a terrible thing and it’s destroying families. It destroys lives. But instead of letting it destroy her family, [Jimmy and Leah] not only found a way, they took everything they learned and wanted to turn it into something positive for other people going through the same thing. So I felt like I had to nominate him.”

In his role at NC State, Jimmy oversees capital planning and on-campus construction projects, as well as facility maintenance and operations. His expertise was invaluable as he and Leah researched a location for Wake Monarch Academy, worked to prepare their school’s new facilities for students, and established policies and procedures for its operations.

“When we started, we said even if we impact just one life, one family, it’s all going to be worth it,” Leah said. “To be able to support these youth and their families so they can get the support they need so they can recover for the rest of their lives and have meaningful lives and careers and families is something . But walking alongside Jimmy – I couldn’t imagine doing that with anyone but him.”

Jimmy Wright (third from left) poses for a photo with other recipients of the 2022 Awards for Excellence and Chancellor Randy Woodson (second from right) after the awards ceremony.

The school has been operational since Fall 2021 and provides high school students with a supportive environment in which to continue both their education and recovery. Now Jimmy is turning to campus recovery programs at NC State and other UNC system schools to start building relationships. It is important to him and Leah that Wake Monarch Academy students know that higher education is an option for them and that recovery resources are available to help them thrive and thrive on a college campus .

At NC State, these resources are housed in the Prevention Services, which provide case management, education, and outreach to students seeking mental health and substance use support. They host a weekly drop-in room and also offer referrals for students who need clinical support. Prevention Services is also home to the student organization Pack Recovery.

Students who are in recovery and are part of a college recovery program are more likely to graduate and also tend to feel more socially connected to other students.

“Pack Recovery’s role is essentially to provide students with an alternative college experience that is free of alcohol or other drugs,” said Laurie Capps Bolster, graduate assistant in Prevention Services and third-year graduate student in the counselor training program.

“Overall, students who are in recovery and are part of a college recovery program are more likely to graduate, and they also tend to feel more socially connected to other students,” she said. “So it’s a really great opportunity for students to just get to know each other and build those real human connections with each other.”

For Pack Recovery president and graduate student in industrial and organizational psychology Jason Saville, the club serves as both a support community and an advocacy organization that educates faculty and staff about the experiences of students in recovery and the resources available to them.

“It can sometimes seem like everyone on campus is using alcohol or other substances, and it can really be normalized,” Saville said. “Part of what we do is to show students that there are people who don’t use substances either. But we also show that without substances, you can have fun and successfully navigate school and all the stressors that come with it, and that there are others working on the same thing and working to improve.”

Pack Recovery hosts weekly meetings, Fun Friday events, volunteer activities and retreats, all focused on providing a great college experience and a welcoming, substance use-free community for students. It also gives students in recovery a nonjudgmental safe space to learn from and support one another.

Jimmy hopes learning about groups like Pack Recovery will inspire students at Wake Monarch Academy to feel comfortable with the idea of ​​continuing their education and recovery in college. He knows the school is still in its infancy, but with the relationships he’s forging and the attention the school is receiving thanks to the Governor’s Award, it’s poised for growth.

“It was so wonderful to be recognized by my colleagues at NC State and others in the state of North Carolina,” said Jimmy. “I am grateful that we can exchange information about the school and contribute to raising awareness. That’s what it’s all about – helping the school not just get lumped into a little box, but raising awareness in the state and others.

“We’re only scratching the surface now. I am very grateful and want people and parents to know that there is a way and there is hope.”

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