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Schools, Programs & Visit Reports - Oct, 1993 (#24) 

Naches, Washington
Norris Williams, Family Services Director
Lon Visit: Sept. 7, 1993

Flying H Youth Ranch was founded in 1962 and is located on the East slopes of the Cascade Mountains. It is in that nebulous line where the trees of the Cascades are giving way to the hot grassy rolling plains of Central Washington. It has a sense of being tucked away, even though their property consists of 400 acres on the banks of the Naches river and extends well up into the surrounding hills. The initial sense of safety was enhanced upon entering the main lodge and meeting the staff. Most of the staff live on campus, in homes tucked away unobtrusively around the property, most with a view of the valley below.

Flying H is unique in that being Christian oriented, the staff consider themselves missionaries and work for the basic essentials in a financial sense. This allows the school to offer a tuition based on a sliding scale. By selecting only those who have a true calling to do the Lord's work through working with young people, they have made it work, and the result is a large percentage of their staff having been there for several years. The staff were as dedicated and appeared as competent as those of any school I've visited. The boys looked good too. Several of them came up to introduce themselves and talk with me, reflecting a feeling of safety on their part.

In reality there are three schools on the campus. One is for the boys enrolled in the program. The other is a school for the children of the faculty. The third is a day school for the surrounding community whose parents want a Christian education for their children. There of course is some mixing at lunch and other activities, but the three schools are pretty much kept separate. I was impressed that the staff trusted the boys enough to live and raise and educate their young children on campus. The academics seemed pretty traditional, with the exception of the Christian emphasis such as teaching Creation.

Much of the emotional growth is centered on jobs and work, and one on one work with the boy. Being a good sized ranch, there is always plenty of necessary work for the boys to do in helping the adults. During my visit, the boys had just finished putting in the hay from the 100 acres devoted to that, and jobs consisted of cleaning, ditch fixing, repairing fences, etc. etc. The boys finished classes at 3 PM, and by 3:30 were off on their work crews until time to wash up for dinner. Counseling occurs one hour a week at a scheduled time, and as needed during the rest of the week, usually on-the-spot. Positive peer pressure is used throughout the program. For example, if a boy acts out while on a work crew, he will be invited to take a break while the other boys continue working. It doesn't take long before the reactions of the other boys has the one taking a break begging to be allowed to go back to work.

A vocational orientation is inevitable in the ranch setting, and the school is currently working on expanding on that. A new large vocational building is already framed and roofed that will allow more formal vocational education in several areas, hopefully being in full operation this Fall.

Monitoring of the boys' progress is done by an extensive token system. Each boy starts with a certain number of points, and they lose points for negative behavior. If they retain enough points through the day, they receive tokens which can be added up over time to purchase privileges, which might consist of going fishing, out to a movie, or even a weekend off campus with visiting parents.

The school has found that those children who are actively resistant or whose parents provide little support were the children who caused the most problems, and the ones most likely to lose the gains they had made when they left after completing the program. Now that Flying H has so many inquiries to choose from, the decision was made to emphasize working with those they can have the most impact on.

They are not enrolling just good kids. For example, if a boy is acting out and doesn't want to be there, but cannot conceive of disobeying his parents decision to enroll him, he very likely will be acceptable.

Parents are required to attend the two Family Resolve weekends each year. If the parents can't attend, the inclination is to send the boy home to make room for a boy needing Flying H who has parents who will provide the active support necessary.

The overall goal is to work with each boy to help him learn who he is, and to learn his relationship with God. All the staff are devoted and committed Christians. Their Christianity is not blatant, but it is subtle and pervasive in their personal philosophy, which comes out in a serious, sober and non-apologetic way. Religion is not crammed down anyone's throat. You could talk with the staff for some time and the conversation would be no different than with the staff at any other Special Purpose School. However, when the conversation gets to basic beliefs, then you would see their Christianity.

An example is the half hour of quiet time each boy must spend each morning before breakfast. The purpose is to start the day quietly reading the scriptures. If a boy does not want to read something religious oriented, that's very acceptable. However, if he can't be quiet, then the alternative is to "run the loop," a mile run around the adjacent hay field. The staff reports all the boys very soon learn to appreciate and use the quiet time in a constructive manner.

For the parent who has limited finances, who has a boy who is not totally resistant and rebellious, and is open to a Christian environment, this could be the miracle they are looking for.

Copyright 1993, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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