Amelia Hladych learns to start a fire with a bow drill kit at Thriving Roots Wilderness School in Lumby.

Amelia Hladych learns to start a fire with a bow drill kit at Thriving Roots Wilderness School in Lumby.

Rites of passage for youth

Young people are invited to connect with the earth at Thriving Roots Wilderness School

The term rite of passage carries a variety of meanings and associations. Some may envision an ancient ceremony where youth must perform dangerous tasks to become an adult member of the tribe. Some might think of graduating from high school or college. Others might envision a secret club in middle school where kids dare each other to eat a slug in order to become part of the group.

One thing is for certain, if we dig into the ancestry of every person reading this, we will find rites of passage ceremonies. In every culture, on every continent, some form of rites of passage have served to help keep the culture intact and the people empowered.

A rite of passage is a ceremony to mark a transition from one life stage to another that includes intentional preparation time, a period of concentrated effort and growth, and a public recognition ceremony.

While graduation ceremonies mark a completion of work, a rite of passage is a deeply personal process that focuses on who the person is becoming rather than what they have done. Rather than a middle school inclusion challenge, a rite of passage is held by the full community. The challenges are meant to help the person cultivate both self-knowledge and a connection to the greater world.

As people, we grow through challenges. We thrive on positive social relationships. We have a deep need for self-awareness. A rite of passage takes these essential elements of humanity and concentrates them into a ceremonial process.

For youth, the passage into adolescence or young adulthood can be a confusing time. They are growing fast and their sense of self is struggling to catch up with the warp speed changes. Their biochemistries are flooding with new recipes and they are facing a parade of “first times.” Rites of passage are a means for the community to provide a container for our young people. They can have the time to sort through these changes, to reflect, and to gather guidance. In this safe, formal container, youth can test themselves and enjoy the empowerment and self-knowledge that comes from overcoming a challenge. They can feel the joy and deep support of a community that recognizes their work and their value and tells them that they have a new place in the community.

Rites of passage do not have to be relegated to an ancient practice from distant lands. Providing them now might be one of the best ways we can care for our youth, our lands and our community.

Thriving Roots Wilderness School is offering a Youth Rite of Passage program for ages 12 to 15, Aug. 16 to 19 at Cedar Bridge School in Lumby. Enrolment is now open. To register, please contact Trish at

To learn more about the program, see