Ralph Marchant toils in the library of Odyssey Academy patiently transforming jumbled piles of books into an orderly library.

In nearby classrooms in the basement of a dank downtown office building, students pore over their schoolwork. Their lives have been as disheveled as the library books the retired junior high school teacher sorts.At 17, Brandon Broadwater has restored order to his troubled life. He is a recent graduate of Odyssey Academy. The academy is an alternative high school operated by the private, nonprofit drug and alcohol treatment center, Odyssey House of Utah. Broadwater plans to start college this summer.

Broadwater's future wasn't always so clearly mapped. At 15, Broadwater was on a fast, downhill slide. "I was out doing drugs, smoking pot and not going to school. I had basically dropped out of high school. I'd go once a week, I was getting basically F's," he said during an interview during the academy's recent open house.

Joey Toscano, 17, tells a similar story. He will graduate from the program in May and plans to attend Salt Lake Community College. He began using drugs when he was about 12 years old, in part to escape an unhappy home life.

"I'd been to three high schools. I went to Judge, Viewmont and an alternative high school. I was doing a lot of drugs and I'd started doing needles. I wasn't really going anywhere," he said.

Ultimately, a juvenile judge referred him to the program. "The judge told me he wanted me to stay for six months. I changed my mind and decided I'd graduate the program," he said.

The program also receives students on a fee-for-services basis, Youth in Custody and the Department of Family Services.

Toscano and Broadwater say the Odyssey Academy's personalized structure enabled them to succeed. The school, fully accredited by the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges, has very small class sizes, some with a one-to-five ratio. One of the most popular classrooms is the computer lab.

"Most of the kids, when they come here are behind academically, mostly a year or two. Once they determine their needs, the program is pretty individualized," said Glen Drew, director of Odyssey Academy.

Drew, who worked more than 20 years in the public school system as an administrator, said traditional school programs may not be equipped to deal with students who have been involved in substance abuse, may have emotional problems or have criminal histories.

"These are kids who have gotten into trouble; some have been involved in the courts. Some have been kicked out of their homes. They were on the streets. The traditional school wasn't the answer in conjunction with all the other problems they've had," Drew said.

In a school of students whose lives have been ripped apart by substance abuse, dysfunctional families and other emotional problems, one would expect some extreme discipline problems.

On the contrary, says Drew. Not only do students help draft school rules, they help enforce them. If a student is disrespectful to a teacher, he or she is confronted by his classmates.

In the residential center, students have numerous responsibilities. They are expected to prepare meals, clean their quarters and wash their clothing.

Broadwater, once on the verge of being turned out of his home for his illegal and inappropriate behavior, relishes the structure.

"You learn after you get your life together that it's easier to be honest and be responsible," he said.

Marchant, who started at the academy as a volunteer and is now a paid aide, said the students' success is heartening. "Here I can see we're reclaiming those minds instead of letting them go down the drain."