Charting a New Course: Local teen turns life around, pursues pilot's license

 Jake Baker
Jake Baker (WNDU)
Published: Jul. 12, 2018 at 6:25 PM EDT
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There are teenagers who make bad choices that derail their future plans. You've heard it said, “It takes a village to raise a child." Sometimes it takes a village to get a child back on track.

Today, we have a story about special people in our community who set a local teenager in a new direction with an opportunity of a lifetime.

Jake Baker is only 15 years old, but his dreams are really taking off.

“I've wanted to fly since I was in 6th grade,” said Jake. “I want to be a pilot in the Air Force.”

He's taking lessons at New Horizons Aviation at Goshen Municipal Airport.

“Hopefully, I’m going to be able to fly a plane by myself. I'm going to solo,” said Jake.

“My hope for Jacob is that he achieves his goal,” said flight instructor and commercial airlines pilot Roger Yoder. “He certainly has the talent. He is on the right track.”

This isn't an easy process. Jake must participate in instructional flight time and pass tests. The goal is to have his pilot's license before his driver's license.

“Everybody likes to fly, but not everybody likes to get in the books,” said Yoder. “But Jake comes in, with the chapters read, with the questions answered and questions for me.”

“That never happens,” laughed Jake’s father, Jay Baker, in disbelief. “We struggled with school forever. He's not a reader.”

That’s why Jake’s achievements are making his family so proud.

“To sit on the front porch out in the country relaxed, reading and actually totally enjoys being there,” said Jay. “It's a good feeling.”

A feeling that didn't seem possible all that long ago.

“I didn't know where we were going to end up 2 years ago,” said Jay with emotion. “Even probably a year and a half ago.”

Jake was headed for trouble.

“His troubles started when he was 12. It's been a long journey and a scary journey along the way,” said Jay.

Jake started smoking marijuana and hanging out with gang members. He even went missing for weeks. There were many times Jay didn’t know where his son was.

“Absolutely I did not know where he was at,” said Jay.

Jake was arrested and put in juvenile detention only to run away again.

“When it felt like I was losing him, that's when I knew I needed help,” said Jay. “I just couldn't do it all on my own anymore.”

A judge sent Jake to Bashor Children's Home in Goshen for residential treatment.

“What Jake did is, he came in and engaged in the program,” said Mike Deranek, Senior Program Director at Bashor. “And the program we use is highly based on helping teenagers, young adults, young children to be able to learn how to slow down and to give themselves time and space to think.”

“(They) definitely helped me get to the right steps,” said Jake. “A lot of external motivation there. Turn that into internal motivation.”

Motivation to find his true passion.

When the Bashor team learned of Jake’s dream to fly, they knew they could use that goal to propel him on a new course.

They went to work to connect Jake with the right people.

Flight programs can cost thousands of dollars. Bashor's donors helped make it possible.

“We have a strong, deep and diverse donor network that fund scholarship programs that are separate from any state funding or anything to do things like this,” said Deranek.

But they still had to convince his instructor, commercial pilot Roger Yoder.

“I had some reservations,” admitted Yoder. “Sometimes aviation will be used as an excuse to fly but really the passion isn't really there. But when I met with Jake and his dad, it became very evident that he was wanting to do this.”

Within weeks, these two quickly bonded over their shared love of flying.

Up in the sky, Jake finds his focus and peace.

“It feels amazing,” said Jake. “Really I don't think about anything else except for flying because if I was worried about other stuff that was going on, I’d probably fall out of the sky.”

After all, flying takes concentration and dedication.

“The changes that have been a part of his life in this past year are pretty exceptional. And I'm convinced that he can do it,” said Yoder.

“It feels pretty good, because a year ago, I wouldn't have heard that from anybody. If anything there was more disappointment than anything,” said Jake.

But what about now?

“Now everybody's proud of me,” said Jake. “Everybody's happy about where I’m going in life. You know, it's a good thing.”

It’s a good thing now that Jake is headed in the right direction.

Jake turns 16 on Friday. He should be able to fly solo by next weekend. To be licensed, Jake will need additional solo flight time and he’ll need to pass a test. We'll keep you posted on his progress.

Bashor Children's Home has a number of services and counseling for families looking for help for their troubled teens. But they are just one of several quality facilities right here in our area. So if you're struggling with a teen in crisis, we've put together a helpful list of contact information.


We have compiled a list of area agencies who work with teenagers by offering mental health support, family counseling, safe places for runaways and other resources.


Youth Service Bureau of St. Joseph County 574-235-9396

YWCA Women’s Shelter 1-866-YES-YWCA (1-866-937-9922)

Michiana Behavioral Health 574-936-3784 or 1-800-795-6252

Memorial Epworth Center and Epworth Hospital 574-647-8400

Oaklawn South Bend Access Center 24/7 - 574-283-1234

Toll Free: 1-800-282-0809

SCAN Community Partners/Network


Department of Child Services 1-800-800-5556

Juvenile Justice Center 574-235-5400


Bashor Children’s Home 574-875-5117

Oaklawn Elkhart County Access Center 24/7 - 574-533-1234

Toll Free: 1-800-282-0809

Youth Services Bureau, South Bend (Provides safe locations in Elkhart Co.)


CAPS Child and Parent Services 574-295-2277


Lifeline (800) 509-6884

Bowen Center (800) 342-5653


Bowen Center 574-936-9646

Michiana Behavioral Health 574-936-3784 or 1-800-795-6252

Brighter Tomorrows Inc. 574-935-9449

Eric Foster Inc 574-936-3377


Starke County Youth Club 574-772-1600 x1821

Bowen Center 574-936-9646


Bowen Center 574-936-9646

Four County Counseling Center 574-946-4233


Bowen Center 574-936-9646

Four County Counseling Center 574-223-8565


Riverwood Mental Health Services

Berrien County Juvenile Division Intake Manager at 269-983-7111 Ext. 8354.


Woodlands Behavioral Health 269-445-2451

Ark, for homeless youth (Kalamazoo) 269-686-2198