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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Taking flight

Wilderness weekends help young men overcome difficult pasts

Flight Program began in 2009 when staff of ELCA-affiliated Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries' Wilderness Center began wondering about the long-term effects of their work with Pennsylvania and Maryland youth in the juvenile court and youth services systems. Thanks to the center, these young people had taken steps toward becoming productive members of society.

Tom and Keith (last  names withheld)
Tom and Keith (last names withheld) enjoy a wilderness hike as part of Diakon Lutheran Social Ministries' Flight Program. The program helps young men who have aged out of youth services.

"At the center they didn't use [aggression and physical force] to scare and intimidate," said Tom, a former resident and current leader of the 52-week Flight Program (last names of participants are withheld). "They talked with me and listened."

Yet staff sensed that short-term help wasn't enough. Center director Corey Carothers said these teens need people to teach them practical, common-sense things "like how to be a good neighbor, how to maintain an apartment [and] the importance of establishing good credit."

When youth leave the center they are essentially told, "Go and be good," said Rob Kivlan, Flight Program supervisor. "Well, what does that look like? For many of them that's foreign, and so we want to show them.


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