What is Youth & Community Development?

Youth & Community Development through rites of passage is the phrase we originated and use to name our orientation to rites of passage. For almost 50 years we have explored, experienced and engaged individuals and communities in rites of passage as a way to promote healthy youth development while strengthening communities. We believe that all things are related and there needs to be reciprocity between youth and community development.

Understanding the multiple challenges of youth and community development in contemporary society requires that we see the “big picture”.  Most "programs" focus on just one or two isolated “problems”, which are only a part of the big picture. Our work is unique in that it focuses on youth and community development, which is viewed as reciprocal and through the perspective and practice of rites of passage promotes healthy youth development and a sense of belonging that strengthens a community.

The Rite of Passage Experience© ROPE® is an exemplar of youth and community development through rites of passage that integrates the twenty guiding principles. It sees the bigger picture, where all things are related and when the community is engaged in the process of “co-learning” about rites of passage it can agree upon values and ethics that guide healthy and life affirming behaviors for both the individual and the community. These principles were developed from over 45 years of research and practical experience engaging adolescents and adults in schools, community and civic and cultural organizations. They are uniquely designed to integrate many of the current youth development approaches.

The community development process engages diverse sectors of the community in conversations and experiences to promote their capacity to respond collaboratively to the challenges faced by today’s youth and their parents.

Evolutionary biologists claim that a species does not maintain any practices for long periods of time unless it contributed to the survival of the species. There is documented evidence of rites of passage that goes back 30,000 years. 30,000 years of evidence-based results document the importance of rites of passage.

In order to make real change in the way you do something you have to change your language and change the story. Changing the story requires asking fundamental questions and engaging people in conversations.

The Center

The Hummingbird Logo

Huichol yarn painting depicting the hummingbird.

Ancient cultures, like that of the Huichol (pronounced Wee-chol) Indians of Mexico, recognize the importance of rites of passage to mark the transition from childhood to adulthood, and often use animal symbols to communicate complex ideas. For the Huichol, the hummingbird is a symbol of transformation. She is the first teacher of children. In visions and dreams, she guides children through the doorway from their ordinary world to magical places of power and knowledge. It is through these journeys that children begin to understand what it means to be contributing members of their community.