In 1989, my brother Steven J. Blumenkrantz, Esq. met with legendary community psychologist, educator and Yale professor Seymour B. Sarason, Ph.D. They both agreed there should be a not-for-profit agency established to house the unique approaches to youth and community development that began to emerge through my work. Thus, began The Center for the Advancement of Youth, Family & Community Services, Inc. and our ability to formally reach out to communities with a structured engagement architecture and curricula around rites of passage.
While our focus has been the same since then, the only change is a shortening of our name to the Center for Youth & Community, Inc. But what’s in a name? What I find most important are our partnerships with people and settings, like communities, school and other groups.
I wrote in the first edition of the ROPE® Guide (1981). "After all my years of work with the Rites Of Passage Experience, ROPE®, I am proud and comfortable with announcing that this work will always be incomplete.
"Incomplete in the sense that you, the ROPE® Guide, and your community will enter into a partnership that requires the ongoing collaborative evolutionary process of establishing and moving your community’s Rite Of Passage Experience forward. In a sense, it never ends, nor should it. In fact, it’s been evolving for the past 70,000 years as evidence of rituals and rites of passage can be traced back that far.”
Over the past several decades a wealth of theoretical materials have been developed, coupled with substantial experiences that have guided me in the opinion that this work can never be completed. In a sense, it is only completed after each event or session that conveys the essential elements of a Rite Of Passage Experience. It acknowledges and values the uniqueness of each setting, the culture and “spirit of the place” along with each individual, and recognizes that "packaged programs" do not work at impacting the lives of people. Again, what’s in a name?
This initiative for the initiation of our children is more about art than science. There are no cookbook formulas for living. And, there are no packaged programs to enhance the quality of life or ameliorate the problems of living.
We champion the "art" of living. As art, rites of passage use several fundamental techniques derived from tradition and technology. Consider the art of painting. There are canvases, brushes, and paints. We learn, as thoroughly as possible, how to use the brush, what colors mix to create certain hues and the way to stretch and use canvas. The teacher instructs students in the art of painting, but students are responsible for and receive the joys of creating their own masterpieces.
It is the same with rites of passage. Through the 20 elements (see The Rite Way - GUIDING PRINCIPLES) that serve as design principles of youth & community development through rites of passage, I introduce you to the medium of rites of passage, orient you to its history, tradition, techniques, structure and symbols. These 20 design principles are the paints, brushes and canvas. With your community, you construct your contemporary rites of passage - your masterpiece.
Our focus has always been on reciprocity between youth and community. Throughout the history of The Center our attention had been attracted to many areas where youth and community intersect. And, when we say “community” we mean it in the broadest sense to include nature, one’s lifeway, culture/ancestors and the influences that are seen and unseen.
As one of the co-founders of the Connecticut Asset Network in the early ‘90’s, I became intimately involved in introducing a new paradigm for youth development. It focused on an individual’s gifts and talents rather than their problems and deficits to be fixed. One core of the new approach was called “Developmental Assets.” The name almost always gave people the impression we wanted to talk to them about managing their financial assets. Really! It was abundantly clear then as it is now that “language is consciousness” and no matter how one uses language frequently people had another mindset about meaning. It is a real shift in the way one looks at youth development.
Our primary “business” was not in marketing rites of passage. I had a sense this was our sacred story, which I could not commercialize and “sell.” I began to realize that the best we can do to improve traditional institutions and systems that educate and help our children come of age had to be done as a covert action.
What happens could not be predicted or set forth within some formula, but had to emerge, like any relationship, when two people get together for the first time. A new story is created, the plot expands, and the transitions occur … continually.
Thank you for your support, conversation and partnership over the years. Mostly, thank you for helping to co-create and tell the RITE story, so we can have the right future.
Two battleships assigned to the training squadron had been at sea on maneuvers in heavy weather for several days. I was serving on the lead battleship and was on watch on the bridge as night fell. The visibility was poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on all activities. Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing reported, “Light, bearing on the starboard bow.” “Is it steady or moving astern?” the captain called out. The lookout replied, “Steady, Captain,” which meant we were on a dangerous collision course with that ship.
The captain then called to the signalman, “Signal that ship: ‘We are on a collision course, advise you change course twenty degrees.’“ Back came the signal, “Advisable for you to change course twenty degrees.” The captain said, “Send: “I’m a captain, change course twenty degrees.’“
The Caption said, “send: “I’m a captain change code twenty degrees.'”
“I’m a seaman second-class,” came the reply. “You had better change course twenty degrees.” By that time the captain was furious. He spat out, “Send: ‘I’m a battleship. Change course twenty degrees.’” Back came the flashing light, “I’m a lighthouse.”
We changed course. We can be blinded by the way we view the world that could keep us from setting the rite course to educate and help our children come of age. that ROPE® is quite unique