Insight News

Feb 07th

The Rites of Passage: Building strength of mind, strength of character

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On Saturday, March 10, 2012,seventeen, high school seniors experienced a traditional African ceremony that symbolized their transformation from childhood to adulthood. In front of their family, friends and mentors, the seventeen initiates were presented at the 14th Annual Minneapolis Chapter of Jack and Jill’s Rites of Passage (ROP) ceremony, entitled:  Building Strength of Mind and Strength of Character.

At a time that academics are scratching their heads and pointing blame as a result of the glaring need to help students of color succeed in education, this year’s initiates represented a group of students who are thriving in education and owning their destiny. They represent public, private, city and suburban high schools. They excel in academics, the arts and athletics and are leaders in their schools, churches and communities. The initiates represent highs schools from Hopkins, The Blake School, Wayzata, Twin Cities Academy, Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, Central, Cretin-Durham Hall, East Ridge, East View, Champlin, Hill-Murray, Woodbury and Park Center. “This year’s initiates are one of the most creative groups we have ever had,” said Chuck Hill, one of the mentors who has participated in the program since its inception and the proud father of two of the program’s graduates.

The ROP program is a 6-month long program that pairs students (initiates) with adult male mentors. The mentors spend one-on-one time with them to ensure the initiates have a point of contact and feel supported throughout the program.  The initiates experience workshops on a range of topics including, finances, health, and college. They also spend time working in the community including serving at General Mill’s Martin Luther King breakfast. Additionally, the initiates and mentors go on an overnight retreat to bond and reflect on the program experience. The culmination of the program is the rites of passage ceremony and dinner.

The event is co-chaired by two members of Jack and Jill. This year’s chairs are The Honorable Tanya Bransford and Vanessa Ware. They oversee the entire event, from recruiting the students and mentors to planning the workshops to providing support for the initiates’ families. “We’re excited and honored to work with these young men,” said Bransford. “They are so grateful to be a part of ROP, but it is truly our privilege to be a part of their lives.” 

The cost to produce the ROP is primarily generated through funds raised by Jack and Jill members and the initiates. “So far we have been fortunate enough to secure gifts from our past relationships, but as with everything else the costs to run this program are increasing and it’s a tough economy,” stated Ware. “We believe in the value of this program and until it becomes too cost prohibitive, we will strive to keep it going.” The Monitors, a men’s civic organization, has sponsored the ROP program the longest – six, consecutive years– followed by Jostens and General Mills. New to this year’s sponsor list is Best Buy and BT Nsight, Inc. 

Minnesota does not offer many, if any, programs aimed at supporting African American male students who are doing well in high school and are positive role models in their community.  Since the inception of the ROP program in 1999, more than 200 initiates have graduated. The ROP program was created by a Minneapolis Jack and Jill member, Linda Baker Keene, currently the CEO of the Girls Scouts of Minnesota and Wisconsin River Valleys, who saw a need to shed light on the successes that often times are overlooked or over shadowed by negative attention on African American males.

The images are in order:
1.  Edwin Flowers, Twin Cities Academy High School;
2.  Ademola Rotimi, Champlin Park High School
3.  Travonte Neal, Eastview High School
4.  Andre Hinds,  The Blake School
5.  Ayorinde Wusu, Park Center High School
6.  Wesley Ferguson, Wayzata High School,
7.  Davion Johnson, St. Paul Central
8.  LaJaun Willis, III, Eden Prairie High School,
9.  Rashawn Fountain, Eden Prairie High School,
10.  Herbert Ouma, Eden Prairie High School,
11.  Kai Stute, Woodbury High School,
12.  Klenton Miles Stockman-Willis, Hill Murray,
13.  Jamar Kelly, Cretin-Durham Hall,
14.  Khyle Eastin, The Blake School
15. Jarred Morris, East Ridge High School
16. Percy Chism, Hopkins High
17. Braxton Bakari Haulcy, Minnetonka High School



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