Recognizing that students in recovery from substance issues are generally advised at rehab not to go back into their old environments, several McKinney and Collin County leaders began to research the possibility of a recovery school within the public school setting.
A private recovery high school called Sobriety High in Edina, MN was identified early on as providing quality education in a sober environment. Those associated with Serenity High in McKinney have always acknowledged with debt and gratitude the help and encouragement the staff at Sobriety High have offered over the years. Several McKinney people visited Sobriety High during the early planning, to see if a recovery high school might be plausible in a public school setting. M.I.S.D. board member Lynn Sperry, also on the Avenues Counseling Board, acted as catalyst in the initial planning.
Early in 1998, a Task Force was established between the McKinney Independent School District (Dr. Jack Cockrill, Superintendent) and Avenues Counseling Center in McKinney to develop a plan of establishing such a recovery high school within M.I.S.D. Realizing that such a specialized school might need to draw from a larger population, the Task Force also sought partnerships with other nearby school districts. Various members of local communities served for one year in the planning process.
Early 1999, a group of six youths in recovery submitted names they felt would be appropriate for a recovery high school. All names were entered in the competition, then, using a point total system, each of the six young people was asked to select their three favorites (3 points given for each first-place vote, 2 points for second, and 1 point for third). As the final youth cast his deciding vote, the name “Serenity High” won by one point over “Not High.”
October 11, 1999, Serenity High opened with one student and four staff members. Stephen Issa, an original member of the Task Force, was selected as Principal.
May 2000 Serenity celebrated its first graduate with its first commencement. Official letters of congratulation to that student came from Governor George W. Bush and State Senator Florence Shapiro, and the originals hang over the office door at the school.
1999-2000 Junior League of Plano initial grant was given in the amount of tuition for one student for the entire school year. The Junior League of Plano has remained Serenity’s constant supporter throughout the life of the school. Each year, a member from the Junior League has been appointed to serve on the Serenity Advisory Board, and the League has continued to send funds in support of Serenity.
2003-2004 State Senator Florence Shapiro announced a state grant of $160,000 in support of Serenity. At the time, that was the amount the Serenity Advisory Board was raising annually to keep the school on an even financial basis. In layman’s terms, it was a lifeline to Serenity at a time of great need. Through growth of the student population, other donations and careful stewardship of those state funds, those dollars were extended for several additional years.
October 2003 Mary Ann Solberg, Deputy Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, spent one day meeting with staff and students and learning about Serenity High. She declared Serenity to be a “…special place that should become a model for America.”
2006 To accommodate growing student population, third building was added to the Serenity campus. Half of its cost was financed by M.I.S.D., and half was raised by the Serenity Advisory Board in a whirlwind 15-day campaign in June 2005.
April 2009 Serenity was recognized and congratulated by the Texas Legislature in official proclamation.
May 27, 2009, graduation ceremony was held off-campus for the first time, at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in McKinney. Buildings at the campus simply could not accommodate the large numbers of guests.
As of January 2014 Serenity has served students from more than 25 high school campuses in 5 counties, and it has had more than 240 graduates.