Rites of Passage celebrates a decade of working with youth
Rites of Passage helps guide young people of Afrikan descent through the transition from adolescence into responsible adulthood, providing knowledge, opportunities and connections.
As WoodGreen celebrates its 80th year, Rites of Passage (ROP) also celebrates a significant 10-year milestone. Over the past decade, more than 200 young people have graduated from ROP. We’ve been proud to see high rates of high school graduation from participants, and now have alumni in post-secondary education and starting their careers. Alumni have gone on to take leadership roles in their communities, including leading music, cooking and social programs.
In June of 2016, ROP hosted an Indaba conference at York University, in partnership with GTA Rites of Passage and the National Rites of Passage Institute. The three day conference brought together over 300 participants from Cleveland, Chicago, Washington D.C., and the United Kingdom, providing a platform for young people to explore their Afrikan lineage, and share stories that shape their identities and futures.
“Joining the Rites of Passage Process gave me a connection to Africa. I still maintain contact, because I feel part of the Rites family, ROP said they would be there for me and I want to pay it forward. I want others to know about and experience it too. In fact, I think Rites should be in grade 13. It allows you to come into yourself or know your Life’s purpose. Once you know that, there's less self-doubt and you give it your all. Rites is for anyone.”
ROP has expanded and evolved over the past 10 years in response to community needs. In recognition of the challenges faced by different groups, ROP has focused on working with youth from specific cohorts, and have tailored both outreach efforts and the program curriculum to target these individuals. Cohorts include youth in care, youth in contact with the criminal justice system and youth who are out of school and work.
The program has also grown in size – starting off with a single staff member, Manager Paul Osbourne, ROP has now expanded to a team of 7 and offers support through several locations in Toronto. ROP is now in the unique position to hire graduates of the program to come back and share their firsthand experience with participants.
Sarah Bashir (pictured) went through ROP in 2009-2010. She has since graduated from York University with a Bachelor of Social Work, and credits ROP with helping her figure out her life path, and providing a stable space for her to come back to for guidance. She is still close to many of the people she attended the program with, and they’ve supported each other through high school, post-secondary school and navigating the career world. Being back at ROP, Sarah looks forward to continuing on her path of personal growth, and to help the next generation of youth through their journey.