Youth find their way with Rites of Passage

From left are Bentley Smith, Gabrielle Swain, Brendan Gee and Booker Farrior IV. — PHOTO/DENISE ALLEN/MICHELLE SWAIN

Jack and Jill of America Inc. teen leaders from Pa., Del. and N.J. started the 2013 New Year off with a commitment to service to our community. Participants began their journey by donating non-perishable food items to the Bethlehem Baptist Church community food pantry. Those in need from the community have access to the pantry for nutritious food to feed their families at no charge. This project assisted the church, located in Spring House, Pa., in accomplishing their mission to “love God and serve people with dignity and respect.” The group also donated journal books with their personal handwritten messages with scriptures enclosed. These books will be sent to the students at the church’s adopted Ogada Children’s Home in Kenya.

These were first steps toward meeting the requirements for the second of six Rites of Passage as stated by the Spirit of Community Service. While worshiping with the Bethlehem congregation in December, Pastor Charles Quann expressed his appreciation to the 38 teens and their families beginning this journey in the house of God.

Following the service, participants were presented to the community and their elders during a preparation program for the year-long Jack and Jill of America Inc. Delaware Valley Rites of Passage 2013 program. Each young man and woman, draped in colorful Kente cloth, announced the African name they selected for the journey. Each name was selected by the teen because it held specific significance. Natalie Lynn Hodges of the Jack and Jill Montgomery County chapter, said she selected the African name Alala. “Alala means the dreamer, and dreams are related to being creative. I am creative and have big dreams for my future,” Natalie explained.

Angela Pulliam-Gillespie of Chester County chapter, Kym Ramsey of the Montgomery County chapter and Paula Taylor of Mercer County, N.J. Chapter chaired the Rites of Passage (ROP) program. The ROP program is designed to prepare 10th- and 11th-graders to become successful, productive adults and community leaders. The program is based on the African tradition and includes three phases: Preparation, Separation and Presentation.

The memorable Preparation Ceremony and Kwanzaa celebration was co-chaired by Jill Wilson of the Philadelphia chapter and Deanna Williams of the Chester County chapter. Donna Roderick, an associate member of the Philadelphia chapter, was the mistress of ceremonies for the event.

Angela Pulliam-Gillespie presented the teens with a call-to-action on the behalf of the Rites of Passage tri-chairs: She stated: “Our charge to you over the next 11 months is to: 1) take pride in who you are; 2) do everything with excellence; and 3) always do more than what is expected of you. So we ask: Are you distinguishing yourselves from others? Are you going the extra mile in everything you do? The words you speak will set the course of your life.”

The evening ended with a feast shared by all. “If every community took the time to invest in a program like this for their youth, many of our problems in society would be eliminated,” said program participant Kala Jojo.

The Separation process will continue for approximately one year as the Rites of Passage teen participants come together to learn six spirits: They are: The Spirit of Self Awareness, The Spirit of Community Service, The Spirit of Health and Wellness, The Spirit of Family, The Spirit of Career and Enterprise and The Spirit of Spiritual Awareness.

Congratulations to everyone involved in this wonderful experience.

Thanks are extended to Donna Roderick and Tyra Ford for their public relations assistance.

Have a very happy, peaceful and blessed New Year!

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