Louisville Rites of Passage program now accepting applications

By bernheim

CLERMONT, Ky –  A newly-formed Rites of Passage program for Black youth in Louisville is now welcoming applications through August 2, 2021, at louisvilleritesofpassage.org.


The program, whose partner organizations include Bridge Kids International, Play Cousins Collective, and Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest, engages youth in an Afrocentric experience that includes immersion in nature as part of nurturing a new generation of young Black men and women during a critical phase of development. Fifteen spots are available for the program, a five-month pilot that is free of charge and takes place both in Louisville and at Bernheim.


Rites of Passage engages Black youth from the formative ages of 16 through 18 years as they transition into adulthood by nurturing their positive self-worth and identity through a deep connection to their African heritage and nature.


During the Rites of Passage program, youth will pursue collective and individualized goals through a hands-on program structured along four domains: heritage, community, land and self determination, explained Kristen Williams, Executive Director of Play Cousins.


“The Rites of Passage program is an amazing opportunity for our village to connect with the next generation who will inherit it,” Williams said. “Not only is it a ceremonial passing of the torch, but it’s also a journey into purpose and interconnection with self and the community at large.”


Research shows that programs like the Rites of Passage can be an effective strategy in supporting Black youth as they mature into a healthy and positive adulthood, said Stacy Bailey-Ndiaye, Executive Director of Bridge Kids International.

“There is significant evidence that a positive racial/ethnic identity benefits African-American young people’s mental and physical health, social development and educational outcomes,” Bailey-Ndiaye said. “Our goals with the Louisville Rites of Passage program are to help young people transition to adulthood healthy, whole and hopeful – rooted in their history and culture, connected in their community, grounded in a positive sense of self, and prepared with practical tools for the next phase in life.”


Claude Stephens, Bernheim’s Facilitator of Outreach and Regenerative Design, said the newly formed program also speaks to Bernheim’s mission of connecting people with nature.


Bernheim’s founder, Isaac W. Bernheim, wanted Bernheim to be a place for all people regardless of race, creed or economic standing when he founded this forest in the 1920s,” Stephens said. “Bernheim is honored to be included in the Rites of Passage program and to support everyone’s connections to nature.”


The program’s orientation takes place August 10 and programming begins August 20 with a retreat at Bernheim. To learn more or to apply online, please visit louisvilleritesofpassage.org.


Rites of Passage was made possible by The Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence, which provided a $200,000 grant to create a program aimed at developing physical, social, and emotional health in youth while supporting a sense of cultural pride, heritage, clarity and purpose. Additional funding comes from Heaven Hill Distilleries.

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