K.E.Y.S. Academy, an institution dedicated to supporting students in recovery, proudly revealed its latest initiative—a state-of-the-art kitchen facility at the Recovery High School on Brookdale Community College’s campus. Generously provided by The Butcher Block, NJ, The Reclaimed Foundation, and Construction Co., the kitchen symbolizes collaborative efforts to uplift youth in need and reclaim their lives.

Named the Daniel P. Gaughran Community Kitchen. This beacon of hope and nourishment was born from a profound loss that touched the hearts of many. Daniel, affectionately known as Danny, was a vibrant soul whose journey on earth ended too soon on March 21, 2023, at the tender age of 33, after a valiant struggle with drug addiction.

At the unveiling ceremony, emotions ran high as administrators, partners, and students expressed gratitude and optimism for the future. K.E.Y.S. Academy Co-Founder and Assistant Director of Student Wellness & Prevention Programs and Bilingual Student Assistance Counselor (SAC), Jennise Nieves, highlighted the relentless dedication of staff and the unwavering commitment of students to their recovery journey. She emphasized the importance of community support in combating the stigma surrounding addiction and recovery.

“This work could not be done alone,” Nieves stated, acknowledging the collective effort required to empower students on their path to recovery. Despite funding cuts and challenges, the academy has maintained a steadfast commitment to its mission of providing holistic support to youth in recovery.

There are several students seeking recovery that are on a waiting list. Schools do not pay for tuition or student services. All the teaching staff are Matawan employees, provide in person instruction, and are trained to service students in which mental health, trauma informed services and social and emotional learning are the foundation for recovery and academic success.

“In the journey towards recovery, funding isn’t just about numbers on a budget sheet; it’s the lifeline that sustains hope, healing, and academic growth,” Nieves said. Our dedicated teaching staff, supported by the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) Recovery Access Grant and our bipartisan local champions Senator Gopal, Senator Declan, and County Commissioners embody resilience and compassion. But without sustainable funding, our ability to serve every seeker of recovery is at risk. Let us unite to ensure everyone finds the support they need to thrive.”

The unveiling ceremony brought together a room full of supporters, including Nelyda Perez, superintendent of the Matawan-Aberdeen School District (MARSD), and co-founder of K.E.Y.S., who said, “I am proud of the students who show up every day. And, because of that, you all have the highest attendance in our district. Everyone must know this because sometimes there is stigma, and they think that you may not show up or that you are not in it, and you are not all in for recovery and to get the help. You all have proven many people wrong, including educators, community members and stakeholders that don’t know what recovery is about. But you’re doing it. I’m so proud of you.”

Perez and Nieves together share an intense passion for KEYS, and truly are instrumental to the success of the high school.

Perez continued, “And even one of our students that graduated came back this morning. And we would love to invite all the kids that are on the waiting list to come back to visit someday. But we also need the help of each of you to get up in front of legislators and require that they fund recovery high schools in New Jersey. We are just one. There are three in New Jersey and there are 37 across the country. It’s still not enough because our kids need us, and our youth needs us. I want to thank the Matawan Aberdeen Board of Education for believing in us.”

In addition, representatives from Brookdale Community College and the Caroline Huber Holistic Wellness Center, Tigger Stavola Foundation, New Hope Integrated Behavior, CPC Behavioral Health, Community Affairs and Resource Center (CARC) and Latino American Association of Monmouth County, Red Bank and Long Branch Regional Schools SAC and Prior and ASAP, Monmouth County Department of Human Services, and many other collaborating community organizations were there to celebrate the new kitchen with K.E.Y.S. Academy.

Dr. Joan Ali Scocco, Chief Officer of Strategic Initiatives at Brookdale, emphasized the institution’s unwavering dedication to fostering partnerships and supporting students beyond high school.

“We hold dear the value of community and partnerships,” Dr. Scocco remarked, underscoring Brookdale’s commitment to providing a supportive environment for students to continue their education beyond high school. She highlighted the importance of unwavering support from family, educators, and community partners.

One of the students expressed his excitement about being already enrolled in college classes at Brookdale. Right now KEYS has four high school students taking college courses at Brookdale!

Looking into the kitchen from the window pane by the door. SIgnage over the window says Danny's Kitchen.The unveiling also featured representatives from The Butcher Block and Reclamation and Construction Co., who shared their motivation behind supporting K.E.Y.S. Academy and the broader recovery community. President James Cardamone, a Certified Recovery Coach, Director Sean Groom, and Pat Gaughran, Director of Operations and brother of Danny for whom the kitchen is named were there representing The Butcher Block Foundation, spoke passionately about their firsthand experiences with addiction and their commitment to supporting others in recovery.

“We want to create a space where it’s okay to talk about this stuff,” Cardamone remarked, emphasizing the importance of community and support in the recovery process. The Butcher Block Foundation expressed its dedication to providing ongoing support, including scholarships for students and continued collaboration with K.E.Y.S. Academy.

In a touching moment, Pat shared a heartfelt tribute to his brother, Danny, whose battle with addiction inspired The Butcher Block Foundation’s mission. He expressed gratitude for the opportunity to contribute to K.E.Y.S. Academy’s efforts and pledged ongoing support to the recovery community.

The unveiling of the new kitchen marks a significant milestone for K.E.Y.S. Academy and underscores the power of community collaboration in supporting youth in recovery. As the academy continues to expand its programs and outreach efforts, it remains dedicated to providing a supportive environment where students can thrive academically, emotionally, and socially.

For more information about K.E.Y.S. Academy Recovery High School and its programs, please visit their website https://www.marsd.org/domain/1164 or call KEYS /BCC (732) 224-2645; MARSD (732) 705-4023.