There is a bold experiment on a once forgotten 880-acre farm in the heart of Maryland’s Anne Arundel County at the headwaters of the Patuxent River. A program to bring birds behind the wire of Washington, DC’s Youth Rehabilitation Center, to inspire, educate, and rehabilitate both bird and youth.
The inspiration for Wings Over America goes back to the founding of the Earth Conservation Corps (ECC) by at-risk youth in Southeast Washington, DC, who worked to restore the polluted Anacostia River and reintroduce America’s national bird– the endangered bald eagle– and other wildlife to our nation’s capital.
From these roots, Wings Over America is now a newly established non-profit service organization dedicated to establishing a national environmental training campus that will make a profound difference in the lives of at-risk young people by teaching, cultivating and inspiring a lifelong ethic of community service and conservation.
A 100-year-old barn adjacent to the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge is being restored as the new home of Wings Over America at the “New Beginnings” Youth Rehabilitation Center and Capital Guardian Youth ChalleNGe Academy.
Pairing adjudicated youth with injured birds of prey is a response to a growing awareness of the need for young people to reconnect to nature, and to have such opportunities as part of the rehabilitation process.
In partnership with the forward-thinking vision of the DC Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services and National Guard, providing adjudicated at-risk youth access through Wings Over America to these injured birds of prey offers an entry point and “New Beginnings” to engage with the natural world.
While this much-needed conservation effort is a good idea unto itself, the partnership with youth-at-risk makes it a brilliant one. The bird sanctuary will be housed in a 100-year-old barn on a parcel of land rich with trees, wildlife, and rivers, and conveniently next to New Beginnings, a youth rehabilitation facility for young men between the ages of 15 and 18.
With the dynamic partnership between the city of Washington DC, the state of Maryland, Greenspur Builders, Maya Angelou Academy – New Beginnings, National Wildlife Federation and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the youth in the program will also learn green building construction to restore the barn and surrounding buildings in the creation of a raptor training center.