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Alaskan At-Risk Youth is “Crossing” to Success

In the literal sense, “crossings” are pathways to traverse a larger path. Like a bridge over a raging river, or an overpass over a busy highway. It can also be a journey, a voyage, or an expedition. In short, “crossing” is about a path someone has found to get from one place to another and the reason Alaska Crossings has its name. Participants take a personal journey and make their own crossing.

Who needs “Crossings?”

A young person consistently making poor decisions and struggling with behavior and possibly other issues, may need some help identifying and resolving whatever underlying psychological or emotional challenges that may be contributing to that. In other words, they might first need to understand the reasons for taking their journey or “crossing.”

person stepping across small wood bridge over a stream

Since 2001, Alaska Crossings has been helping young people age 12-18 make better, more disciplined, daily behavioral choices. Youth build skills in social functioning, structure and routine, self-motivation, effective communication and a positive work ethic. In a sense, the program helps youth with their journey; crossing the bridge to improving their daily experiences by developing a culture of positive and supportive relationships. By the time they finish the program, they can transfer what they’ve learned to their homes, schools, and communities.

Making the “Crossing”

So, how does Alaska Crossings do all of that? The three-phase program does it within the context of a 64-day wilderness behavioral health program based out of Wrangell, Alaska, in the Tongass National Forest, along the Stikine River and in Mount Edziza Provincial Park in British Columbia. These wilderness expeditions in the back-country of Southeast Alaska are the framework for our skills-based programs the typically includes canoeing on the ocean, river paddling, and mountaineering. Supported by clinicians and Case Managers, groups are led by highly trained field guides who mentor and build positive relationships with participants as they learn to recognize and access personal strengths and abilities. Accepting those things eventually leads to developing and understanding they also have the skills and strengths to be successful in their everyday lives ultimately.

Family participation is also a crucial component of the program. Through weekly phone calls, the Alaska Crossings clinical team leads parents and caregivers through a series of exercises to help strengthen their parenting skills and prepare them for a positive future with their child. Then, together they will develop a homecoming plan for their child.

Landing on the other side

The Alaska Crossings staff works with the participants’ families to create a homecoming plan which includes coordinating possible services needed after completing the program. Support for building on the positive changes developed during a participant’s time in the program is the next step in the process and a critical component after graduating.


The Alaska Crossings staff will be happy to provide additional information or answer any questions. 

Jerrie Dee Harvey, SEARHC Behavioral Health Program Manager, reviewed the information presented here.

If you have feedback about this content or have additional topics ideas for SEARHC, email us at SEARHCnewsroom@searhc.org.


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