‘Can receive the treatment they need’: A look inside Fortis Academy, 1 of 9 public recovery high schools in the country

HOUSTON – Oftentimes when we think of recovery, we think of rehab facilities. We also think of adults.

The truth is students are impacted by substance abuse and addiction too.

While oftentimes adults can take FMLA and seek treatment, students miss school and fall behind.

There are recovery high schools around the country and fewer than a dozen of them are public. Harris County Department of Education’s Fortis Academy is one of them and it’s located in Harris County.

From the outside, the school might look like your typical high school, but the work being done on the inside is unique.

Travita Godfrey is the principal at Fortis Academy.

“Students come to us from recommendations they receive from the camp counselor or their campus administrator. Students can receive the treatment they need, but also, they can receive exceptional academic support, so they are still able to take dual credit classes, AP courses, we help them enroll in college,” Godfrey said.

Fortis Academy student Bethany is 19. She moved to Houston from Brownsville with her family in 2019. Her school district recommended her for Fortis Academy. She said she was struggling at the time she was enrolled in the school.

When speaking about addiction, Bethany said the school provided her with comfort.

“I would say it would be comfort, forgetting, just being comfortable, I guess. It’s every day we have to wake up and say we are going to try today,” Bethany said.

Lakesha Hemphill is a recovery coach at the school.

“Being I am a recovering addict and I have 17 years clean, I do have a better relationship with them because I understand where they are coming from, I lived it,” Hemphill said. “Fortis has given Bethany a sense of stability, something she didn’t have, a sense of structure, consistency, we have never wavered on her.”

James Colbert is the superintendent of Harris County Dept of Education.

“We find that many of our students have been looking for help for quite a long time and Fortis happens to be that thing that’s waiting for them and gives them the help they need,” Colbert said.

Bethany hopes to graduate this year.

“I need to keep trying. That’s when I start thinking about Fortis and how they helped me, and I just get back up,” explained Bethany.

According to school officials, they keep enrollment to around 30 students. The school is also open to non-Harris County School districts.

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