Youth Touch the Future at Scotlan Center’s Sky High Program

By Jaron K. Epstein Matthew GravesThe George P. Scotlan YouthandFamily Center, founded in 1966 and based at the historic DeFremery Park, is heading up an innovative flight simulation training program for young people in West Oakland.Operated in alliance with the Tuskegee Airmen Association and the Bay Area Black Pilots Association, the aviation program gives students real flight hours in a flight simulator, which they can use to prepare for careers as an independent pilot or if they choose, they can pursue a career working for a major airline.This experience can also lead to opportunities to be trained as an air traffic controller. Generally quite expensive, such a program often costs as much as $200 an hour for flight time.“We built this flight simulator lab so we can put 23 kids in a room and have them look forward to new expectations,” said Matthew Graves Jr., executive director of Scotlan, which is a full service center for young people and their families. Theprogram also offers a career exploration workshop, which focuses on digital arts and media and renewable energy, in addition to aviation. “We have partnered with College of Alameda, and we have FAA certified Tuskegee Airmen instructors, who are signing log books so (young people) have official ground hours that will last forever,” said Graves. “We call it our Sky High program so they can look forward in the future to things that they hadn’t looked at before.” The center not only has services to help youth improve education and job opportunities but also addresses family needs. Scotlan offers onsite counseling, mediation and real career training that provides the support Oakland youth need to make healthy life choices. “We have a lot of youth who come to us saying they don’t expect to be here after they’re 18 or 19 years old because of the gun violence and the other things they experience,” Graves said. “We have to find innovative ways to address these problems.”
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