K.E.Y.S. Academy Open House and Expansion Celebration to Help Students with Addictions Graduate High School

K.E.Y.S. Academy, a groundbreaking recovery-based educational recovery high school focused on serving youth and families in recovery, celebrated the grand opening of its new campus location at Brookdale Community College. The open house event brought together students, parents, community members, educators, legislators and supporters to commemorate the expansion of K.E.Y.S. Academy’s vital mission.

“Everyone here today took time out of your day to be here because you made a choice to make a difference in someone’s life,” remarked Assistant Director and Co-Founder,  Jennise Nieves. “We are here today to celebrate students that are in recovery and families that are in recovery. You are contributing to the healing of our students.”

The event commenced with heartfelt remarks from various speakers, including Nelyda Perez, Assistant Superintendent of School Administration and Co-founder of K.E.Y.S. Academy, and Dr. Joseph G. Majka Superintendent of Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District. The speakers expressed gratitude for the collaborative efforts that led to establishing the new facility and highlighted the impact of K.E.Y.S. Academy on students’ lives in recovery.

“The dedication and commitment of everyone here today have made this dream a reality. Our students, families, and community partners have shown unwavering support, and together, we are fostering a safe, nurturing environment for youth in recovery to thrive,” said Nieves during her address.  Nieves made a call to action; asking that those present contact their local legislators and advocate for funding as the school provides free school tuition and services to its students.  K.E.Y.S. was awarded the Recovery Access Grant under the NJ Department of Education but the funds are not sustainable and the school needs the financial support of the Opioid Settlement Fund to keep its mission of “Saving Lives” in “Fighting the Opioid Epidemic”.

Nieves made a special shout out to those in attendance, the Matawan Aberdeen Board of Education members, Brookdale Community College, Assemblywomen Kim Eulner and Marilyn Piperno, the Prosecutor’s Office, Monmouth Cares, Preferred Behavioral, New Hope Integrated Healthcare and Division of Mental Health and Addiction, NJ Department of Education, among other great community providers and advocates.

The event also featured touching testimonials from students and families who have benefitted from the unique approach of K.E.Y.S. Academy, emphasizing the importance of the program in providing education, support  and hope to those facing the challenges of recovery.

Kim Guadagno, Former Acting Governor, Lieutenant Governor, 33rd Secretary of State, and mother of Andy said, “Andy was born from parents that were addicted to substances.   Because of K.E.Y.S. Academy, he is alive, and I am here to thank you on behalf of Andy, because he needed you. This is the only thing in the state like it.”

“Senator Gopal has always been candid about his journey with mental health, and he stands as a resolute advocate for ensuring that those grappling with mental health challenges receive the comprehensive support they deserve,” said Chief of Staff Dyese Davis.  “K.E.Y.S. Academy embodies a haven of hope and healing for many, and after witnessing the graduates’ achievements, Senator Gopal wasted no time in extending a hand. Therefore, on behalf of Senator Gopal, I extend our deepest gratitude. As someone who also proudly serves as a Brookdale Community College trustee, I am doubly thrilled about this partnership.”

County Commissioner Susan M. Kiley said, “”It is immensely exhilarating to stand here and witness the remarkable journey of Keys Academy. From its humble beginnings, I have been an unwavering advocate of its mission and the invaluable assistance it provides to our community. This endeavor holds a profound place in my heart. Monmouth County Commissioners have stood firmly behind K.E.Y.S., particularly in its partnership with Brookdale Community College, and this steadfast support will persist. On behalf of Director Tom Arnone, Deputy Director Nick DiRocco, Commissioners Ross Licitra, myself, and Lillian Burry, I extend heartfelt gratitude for the transformative impact you’re making. As I listened to the moving speeches today, I was reminded of my own role as a mother who has experienced a loved one’s battle with addiction. Programs like K.E.Y.S. Academy are the lifelines that offer hope. Let it be known that you possess not only my empathy but also my commitment to assist in any capacity and secure the necessary funding.”

The new location on the Brookdale Community College campus provides an ideal setting for the academy’s mission. “Located at Brookdale is the perfect place because Brookdale is about community and the K.E.Y.S. high school students are on a college campus where they can take college credits and take advantage of all the benefits of being on a college campus,” said Assistant Director Nieves.

The new space boasts several classrooms and community areas, each designed to cater to the holistic development of the students. The “Blessing Bag Brigade” room reflects K.E.Y.S. Academy’s commitment to fighting for health and overcoming addiction. Dedicated classrooms for the Center for Arts and Wellness, STEM subjects, and Humanities ensure a comprehensive and innovative education.

A poignant tribute named “Tigger’s Room,” supported by the Tigger Stavola Foundation, provides counseling and educational resources. They offer special monthly speakers that include neuroscientists, cooking with a chef, everyday news channels, wellness programs and scholarships for the students to attend college.

K.E.Y.S. Academy’s new campus location at Brookdale Community College is designed to support students’ educational journey while fostering a sense of community and belonging. The recovery high school provides individualized academic and wellness recovery plans for each student and  family.  Recovery supports include access to outpatient services, mental health, bilingual and cultural diversity, health and nutrition, boxing and yoga, College and Career Readiness, NA/AA self-help groups, and more, all of which provides students with a holistic environment for growth and learning.

The event concluded with a tour of the grand new school, allowing attendees to witness firsthand the dedication to creating an environment where students in recovery can flourish academically, emotionally and personally.

Please visit this website for more information about K.E.Y.S. Academy and its mission.