Educator. Innovator. Leader. Counselor.

Susie Brooks Equips Students for Success in School and Beyond
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Making substance use issues an okay topic to talk about is an incredible relief for students and their caregivers.

Susie Brooks, EdD

For visionary educator Susie Brooks, EdD, listening for what her students weren't saying became the catalyst for developing a different approach to K-12 schooling.  

While earning her doctorate and working in higher education, Brooks encountered too many undergrads who were quietly slipping through the cracks, unprepared for the educational journey before them. The situation seemed unfair, Brooks thought. Students were set up to sink. 

"I wasn't feeling the joy I once felt as an educator because I couldn't be effective," she explains. "Students weren't coming to us with the education they needed and deserved—the education any of us would require before setting foot on a college campus." 

To better understand where students were coming from the developmental levels and needs of K-12 students—Brooks went back to school herself. In addition to her doctorate in education, she earned a master's degree in education with a focus on early childhood curriculum and instruction. 

Then, newly equipped to teach and lead at the K-12 level, Brooks set out to establish a school that delivered on her standards of excellence and compassion in education. That's how Veritas Academy, a nonprofit K-12 classical school in Chisago County, Minnesota, came to be. 

Changing the Trajectory

In 2015 Brooks began her K-12 enterprise focused on the mission of preparing students for success in college and beyond. What she hadn't anticipated with Veritas Academy were the social-emotional challenges impacting many students, specifically around substance use issues at home and in the community. 

Within the school's first five years in operation, Brooks helped numerous students whose families were quietly struggling with addiction issues. She knew that children who grow up in homes impacted by addiction are at far greater risk of some day developing substance use, other mental health problems or trauma themselves. 

She needed better options for students. She wanted more resources for families. She vowed to change the trajectory. 

To better understand the family and social dynamics of substance use issues and the science around prevention, Brooks enrolled in the Hazelden Betty Ford Graduate School of Addiction Studies. It was Brooks's hope that a background in addiction science and counseling would inform her ability to create an environment that's mindful of these complex situations.  

Changing the Conversation 

In April 2023, Brooks graduated with a master's degree in addiction counseling. Back at Veritas Academy, she has been actively listening for new ways to create intentional, protected and supportive spaces for students and families.  

The biggest and most important difference Brooks is already noticing in her school community? An awareness and readiness for open, honest conversations around addiction and recovery. Making substance use issues an okay topic to talk about is an incredible relief for students and their caregivers, she shares.  

"Hazelden Betty Ford has empowered me to be the person who can create an environment where parents, students and faculty feel safe discussing a topic that has, too often, left kids and families feeling stigmatized and alienated." 

Brooks knows that creating a culture of empathy, academic excellence and openness will serve students and their families well beyond their days at Veritas Academy. 

"We want every child, adult, faculty member and guest who walks into our building to recognize, know and feel that they have infinite worth and value," Brooks vows. "We're going to love them well. We're going to see them, we're going to understand them, we're going to care for them, and we're going to protect them."

And in doing so, Brooks is rediscovering her joy as an educator and transforming students' futures.

Hear More of Susie's Story

Listen to Susie's conversation in this episode of the Let's Talk Addiction & Recovery podcast series.

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