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Taking the Helm

The result is a thoughtfully planned building that supports the program. “Sober College itself is different than every other rehab nationally and inter-nationally because we bring together school and recovery,” Mindi explains. “Everything here is about [the clients] having fun, finding their passions, doing things they wouldn’t think would be exciting sober. But it really is to make them a whole person. I don’t sell the cure. What we sell is a toolbox for life.”

Part of that toolbox at the learning center includes not only the counselors and the clinical professionals necessary for detoxing and learning the road to recovery, but also a yoga studio, a music studio and an art studio. Additionally, this is where students come to take classes. Adjunct professors who are part of the therapeutic team at Sober College teach five WASC-accredited classes from curriculum they have developed in partnership with Woodbury University. These classes enable recovering young people to continue pursuing college degrees even in the early stages of recovery. In fact, six months of treatment at Sober College is equal to a semester in college.

With a library (Mindi’s favorite room in the building), plus classrooms, an academic computing center, tutoring rooms and a cafe, plenty of space exists for clients to work and learn. Mindi lists the differences between the old building and the new one as we tour: the academic rooms have glass doors so staff can proctor exams; when families came to visit in the old building, they had to squeeze into shared offices, now they have a meeting room; they are the only place with a yoga studio; they have an onsite lab for drug testing; a doctor comes in twice a week; a whole separate wing for the clinical work; and a TV studio for doing their own videos that’s something to offer clients interested in TV.

Then we pass a dream catcher that takes up an entire wall. “That’s a big dream catcher,” I say. “Yes,” Mindi sighs with a laugh. “Another crazy idea from my husband. Before he died, we had a goal — it sounds crazy — to be in the Guinness Book of World Records.” She says it was built to spec to beat the reigning record, but the Russians beat them with one that’s about 30 feet bigger on all sides. “So now we like to say that we’re nationally the biggest,” she adds with a smile.

Big thinking is kind of a theme at Sober College. In the art room, elevated work tables and counter space offer plenty of room to spread out and create. A current project stands at one end of the room.

It’s an oversized hand with fingers reaching, but curved as if holding an object. It’s unfinished, a skeleton of mesh covered in pieces of broken vinyl records. It’s cool, totally original and built entirely by Sober College clients. It looks like a professional sculpture that the nearby Broad Museum, known for contemplative contemporary works, might exhibit.

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