About the Weekend Alternative Program

By providing a safe sanctuary for youths to learn about themselves and express the challenges they face daily at home, at work, in school, and in their communities, the Weekend Alternative Program delivers a better learning experience for participants. Staff members help youths work through their problems and areas of concern, offering advice and suggestions they can try with their families and peers and in community settings during the week.

During 10 weekends staff members deliver a life-changing experience in an outdoor program setting, one that includes sleeping in outside shelters, hiking and participating in other outdoor recreational activities, and supporting various community service sights that offer outdoor therapeutic engagement opportunities to the public. Depending on staff members for their security, participating youths understand the need to rely on others and, through this trust, develop relationships that open them to learning.

Strong, Fundamental Programming

Youths in the Weekend Alternative Program rotate through a series of specifically designed program options that include counseling, community service activities, drug and alcohol awareness and other pro-social learning as well as the Diakon Wilderness Center’s adventure-based activities—away from the distractions and temptations presented by peer influences at home. These program features include:

  • Wilderness Adventure—includes full weekend trips spent canoeing, rock climbing, caving, and hiking, designed to build teamwork and self-respect.
  • Community Service—teaches the value of giving back to the community through service with non-profit organizations.
  • Competency Development—focuses on improving communication, making good decisions, and managing emotions, while also helping the youths learn how to become positive, productive members of society.
  • Drug and Alcohol Awareness—creates recognition of the negative effects drugs and alcohol have on individuals, families, and communities.
  • Violence Awareness—emphasizes the impact of violence on individuals, families, and communities, including domestic violence and gang or gun issues.

First-Response Approach

Developed for 12- to 18-year-old males and females, the Weekend Alternative Program is a strong first-response intervention with two distinct referral tracks for youths whose negative behaviors are affecting their ability to be successful and on track in their communities.  The program focuses on a wide range of concerns including but not limited to…

  • Social adversities
  • School issues
  • Family dysfunction
  • Accountability for probation violations
  • Drug and alcohol issues

Diakon’s Weekend Alternative Program – IWI track is designed to be a needs based, short-term solution-focused intervention for youth, providing accountability and individualized services addressing youth behavior in their community. The program actively promotes the advancement of the Balanced Approach Restorative Justice principles of (1) community protection, (2) accountability, and (3) competency development.

The IWI duration model is set up for 2-3 weekends of participation to help identify youth narrative of presenting problem and resistance to change behaviors while helping to provide individualized support planning for behavior adjustments. 

WAP’ Duration model is set up for 8-10 weekends of participation as the recommended number of weekends for maximum benefit (dosage for maximum impact from the WAP intervention/treatment approach is eight - ten weekends –or-60 hours according to our recent SPEP evaluation).


Specific objectives of the program are:

  • Set and measure progress on SMART goals
  • Provide highly interactive mutual aid groups
  • Provide individual support for youth to encourage growth and change
  • Provide each youth the opportunity to obtain 15-20+ hours of community service