Mission & History
AT FLY, WE BELIEVE THAT ALL OUR CHILDREN DESERVE A CHANCE TO BECOME MORE THAN THEIR PAST MISTAKES.
FLY’s mission is to prevent juvenile crime and incarceration through legal education, leadership training, and one-on-one mentoring.
FLY envisions a country where all kids grow up valued and supported, and the pipeline to prison is replaced with meaningful opportunities for kids to live healthy, free, and productive lives that make stronger, safer, and more vibrant communities for us all.
FLY’S COMMITMENT TO DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND INCLUSION
At FLY, we embrace a diversity of identities, beliefs, thoughts, and experiences. We commit to creating a strong organizational culture of equity and inclusion in order to better serve our youth and our communities. We also commit to identifying the root causes of inequity in the education and juvenile justice systems and to helping rebuild those systems to be more effective, humane, and just.
FLY’s CORE VALUES
- Care – displayed towards clients, co-workers, stakeholders, and volunteers
- Commitment – to hard work, having fun, and the display of unconditional and nonjudgmental love
- Respect – for diversity, creativity, and inclusion of different people, backgrounds, thoughts, and experiences
- Responsibility and accountability
- Change – willingness to change ourselves, change minds, change lives, change systems, and be a change agent
FLY’s core programs were originally envisioned by youth who were going to spend most of their teenage years, or their entire lives, behind bars. When they opened up about their experiences to our founder, Christa Gannon, their statements often began with “If only…” and ended with “I wouldn’t be here.”
- “If only I had known how much trouble I could get into”
- “If only I had been given a chance to change”
- “If only someone had really cared about me”
The youth suggested ways to prevent other kids from ending up with the same fate as them:
- Teach kids about the law and consequences of crime so they can learn to make better choices
- Give them a chance to do something good for their communities so they aren’t seen as just “juvenile delinquents”
- Give them positive adult role models who will be there for them and can help them change their lives
Christa took those ideas, bolstered them with research on best practices in youth development and crime prevention, and started a two-year pilot program. The pilot was so successful that when it ended in 2000, she incorporated the project into a nonprofit. The original ideas of those incarcerated youth remain the foundation of FLY to this day—legal education, leadership training, and one-on-one mentoring.
FLY began with one staff member and a handful of volunteers serving youth in a few neighborhoods in San Jose. Today, with 70 staff and more than 200 volunteers, FLY serves approximately 2,500 youth annually in 49 cities throughout the Bay Area. FLY is now led by President and CEO Ali Knight, while Christa Gannon continues to serve the agency in a formal Founder role.