Teen Rites Project

Imagine…Take a moment and think back to your teenage years: A time of great transition, a time of change. Think of a specific event that happened to you or to a friend of yours at the time. Choose something big, perhaps something traumatic. Maybe the first time you did something to prove you were grown-up, something you are not particularly proud of, like smoking cigarettes, drinking beer, your first date, or telling a big lie.

Now, imagine what it would have been like if you had someone, perhaps a council of elders, to help guide you through that situation, through that time of turmoil. Imagine what it would have been like to have community support to honor your changes, answer your questions, and help you see where you fit into this world.Amanda and Hilde

Rites of Passage

Social scientists agree that throughout history less complicated societies provided a sort of blueprint for children to obtain adult status and contribute to their community. The basic foundation for adolescent development or initiation into adulthood consisted of a test and a challenge. It is the completion of this test and challenge that marks the passage from childhood status to adult status.

Rites of Passage were not restricted to the initiation of adolescence, but were practiced by anyone going through a major life change. For many adults today that may look like a career change, a move, divorce, death or loss of a loved one, retirement, etc.

Many professionals believe that the loss of this kind of ritual contributes to the societal ills we have come to know either personally or through the media. The need youth have for some kind of initiation is so strong that it will happen with or without a healthy blueprint.

The trouble often occurs when youth turn to their peers for their initiation through adolescence. It is the tests and challenges that youth come up with in private, and their disastrous results that make it to the news media. Examples include: use of guns, use of alcohol and drugs, displays of toughness, hazing, sexual acting out, or any combination of these behaviors.

“My son’s experience was transformational…. Four years later, we
see a young man who is far more accountable for himself, doing
better in school, socially engaged and relating much more openly to
adults. He seems happy and challenged by his life.” Dan G.

Teen Rites is a “coming of age” or Rites of Passage program for adolescent boys and girls who are ready to experience a personal challenge and an initiation into healthy, responsible adulthood. Here is an opportunity for parents, teachers, and friends to reintroduce to our youth something that has worked for thousands of years. By providing a healthy blueprint for young people they can realize that they are not alone, that they can earn a place of status in their community and that they, too, one day will be called upon to serve their youth as wise elders and leaders.

Eight to ten young people will be selected to participate in each unique program. Preparation includes learning about wilderness skills, the fasting process, gender and relationship issues, Eco-psychology, focusing/meditation, ways to interpret our dreams, effective communication skills, career path exploration, mentoring, and leadership development. Participants experience a walkabout, interview elders in the community, explore the changing roles of adulthood, have group and alone time in the woods, and may have an opportunity to mentor other youth as Teen Rites develop.

For many youths this will be the first time that they seriously explore what they want to be when they “grow up” or what they want to do with their lives as adults.

We will continue to offer private Rites of Passage retreats for individual parents and children/teens as we have done over the years. For any individual programs, please call us as soon as possible to book dates and begin your preparation. Our season is short, beginning June 1 and ending September 30, and we are limited to two groups a month.

“This summer I participated in a Rite of Passage led by Israel
Helfand. This experience changed my life in wonderful ways.
Without Israel to support me through that time I would not have
had nearly as rich an experience. The organization of the whole
thing was wonderful...” Jake, 13

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