It is an honor for us to share a little about our journey with you.
Experiential education and the wilderness have been ideal settings for the two of us. Collectively, we have over 45 years working with youth and family-serving organizations, group homes, Outward Bound, and wilderness programs within the juvenile corrections system. Our passion for teens, young adults, families, educational curriculum centering on restorative justice principles, and the healing power of nature, led us to co-found a distinctive nonprofit in FLYY.
We met in Colorado, at the top of the clouds, in 2000. Perhaps from that vantage, being able to see things from above, the perspective of the big picture, is what ultimately led to the birth of our company. In 2009, we created a shared vision. Between us, we had over decades of working with high-risk teens in wilderness settings — many hours with people that had endured unthinkable hardships and were trying to find themselves and their way in the world.
People need a chance to get respite from their difficult lives. Through our work what became apparent were three things: the teens and young adults that most needed the programs aimed at helping them get and stay on their feet, were unable to afford it; many of these programs failed to focus on the entire family system; and, once the program ended, there was no aftercare to support the teen transitioning back to their often-chaotic home environment.
For several years before starting FLYY, we discussed what our program would look like, whom we would serve, and how we would tell the world what we were offering. It was an unforgettable personal winter camping trip, on a day of mostly sub-zero temperatures in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, that we made the decision to take the plunge and finally start FLYY. Our vision was to create a wilderness program that neither of us had ever seen before, a program with three main components: a wilderness expedition, parent skill development and support groups, and community-based aftercare.
Six years after launching FLYY’s wilderness expedition program, we are seeing our own community positively impacted by this vision. Ultimately, our dreams materialized into a way for participants to finally breathe life in and discover their resilience and worth. It has been an incredibly humbling experience for us. Both Troy and I have overcome our own personal challenges and have participated in wilderness programming at various points in our lives, so we know firsthand how a dynamic wilderness experience promotes positive change in people who are struggling. It can be life-altering for anyone, and can indeed be a way to lift up a struggling family.
Our newest passion is sharing our collective knowledge and expertise when it comes to Wilderness Program Development. This is an investment for a community in many ways. It took us almost two years to develop and be completely prepared to safely and effectively deliver the mission of FLYY before we conducted our first expedition in 2011. And, up until the very last expedition, we had refined, evolved, and sought excellence in our programming. It takes time, work, and commitment to get a high caliber wilderness program established but the good news is that every piece of this knowledge can be passed on!
It is incredibly exciting for us to work and collaborate with others that want to create their own safe, effective, innovative, and meaningful wilderness programs for youth, young adults, and families.
Thank you for considering to work with us.
Jessie Kushner and Troy Gosz, Co-Founders, FLYY