Please help youth rites of passage be understood, valued and strengthened – Participate in a Rite of Passage Research Study by October 31st! 

For the last year, Youth Passageways has been collaborating with researchers at the University of San Francisco and Dominican University, in consultation with National Rites of Passage Institute and the Center for Youth & Community, Inc, to conduct research to build an evidence base on rites of passage for adolescents and young adults. More than a study on a single rite of passage effort, organization, or approach, this collaboration is designed to look at youth rites of passage broadly. 

Please further these efforts today, by: 

  1. Take this 20 minute SURVEY
  2. Share the survey with those 18+ who have been served by your work!
  3. Contribute your data to our growing evidence repository to help us tell the story of rites of passage in the world today.

This effort has the potential to provide meaningful documentation of the impacts of rites of passage on health and well-being for young people; synthesize reams of existing research conducted at the more local level to make it accessible throughout the network; and provide information on what is and isn’t working for our partners and beyond. Your voice is needed–as are the voices of the young people you’ve served. 

Learn more here!

Dear Partners,

It is an exciting moment for rites of passage for young people. We hope that you will participate! This dense email contains important information on a Rite of Passage Research Collaboration and how you and the young people you’ve served can contribute to broad societal understanding of the value of rites of passage. 

For the last year, Youth Passageways has been collaborating with researchers at the University of San Francisco and Dominican University to conduct research to build an evidence base on rites of passage for adolescents and young adults. The intention of this partnership is twofold:

  1. To assess evidence about the impacts of rites of passage on long term health and wellbeing 
  2. To support rites of passage during adolescence as a vehicle for health equity, social justice, and cultural and ecological change.

More than a study on a single rite of passage effort, organization, or approach, this collaboration is designed to look at youth rites of passage in a wide variety of contexts and for a range of communities. This has the potential to provide meaningful documentation of the impacts of rites of passage on health and well-being for young people, synthesize reams of existing research conducted at the more local level to make it accessible throughout the network, and provide information on what is and isn’t working for our partners and beyond. 

Your voice is needed–as are the voices of the young people you’ve served!

We are asking for your participation in two ways:

Survey of participants

Please share this survey with the young people you’ve served (and others you know that could share it with the young people that they have served). Spread it far and wide! There is a small stipend (equivalent to $20) for survey respondents. To participate, participants must be over 18 years old and have participated in a rite of passage at least 1 year ago. 

When you share the survey or engage in followup, please include this cover email from the researchers to ensure respondents understand their rights as research participants. This is language that has been approved by the University of San Francisco Institutional Review Board (IRB). IRB ensures that ethical standards are upheld in all research involving human subjects.  It is fine to write your own cover letter and simply include the cover email as an attachment. 

This  survey is designed to collect and compare information on rites of passage and the impacts on long term health and well-being to other research being conducted in public health. Participants can make use of text responses, and/or sign up to be interviewed at the end of the survey if they feel that the multiple choice questions don’t adequately capture, or they would like to provide deeper insights, their experience.

Gathering Data from Practitioners

We have begun to gather rites of passage data and information in our ROP Evidence Repository.  The intention of this repository is to facilitate the synthesis of (both published and unpublished) data and information on rites of passage, and to share this emerging body of evidence with our partners.  To contribute data and information on your rites of passage work to the repository, please complete the  Partner Data Collection Instrument and attach documents that you would like  included (e.g. program evaluations, exit surveys or interviews, annual reports). And if you are willing to be interviewed for this project, please reach out to to learn more and schedule a time. 

Survey and partner data collection will end on October 31st.  We will be following up at regular intervals and will also provide ongoing support.  We are also here to work closely with you to support your efforts to participate.  Some ways that we might support your efforts include: meeting with you 1:1 to discuss strategy, providing examples from other partners on how they’ve reached out to their communities, or drafting language for you to use in communication. We realize this is a lot to ask of you and we plan on being there to support you along the way.  Building this collective knowledge is an important step forward for rites of passage.

Your work is an integral part of preserving the fabric of values holding up the Youth Passageways network in our attempt to support the young folks of this world, building initiatory practices that provide avenues for young people to step into roles of stewardship within their communities and create long-lasting impacts on individuals and their communities. 

We look forward to helping increasingly broader circles appreciate the importance of rites of passage for young people, their communities, and well-being of all sorts.  We will be following up in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, please feel free to reach out to any of the members of our team listed below for assistance and/or more information. 

In community,

Kelly McDermott, Researcher, University of San Francisco

Michaela George, Researcher, Dominican University

Sobey Wing, Cross-Cultural Protocols Chair, Youth Passageways

Darcy Ottey, Co-Director, Youth Passageways

Dearest Youth Passageway kin,

Greetings from the lands of the Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Ute peoples, along with 48 contemporary tribal nations who are historically tied to the state of Colorado – a place I am calling home, again.

As we creep slowly towards the light of the spring equinox, I pause and stretch back in reflection to the days of darkness, this winter, when I came to a decision about how I desired to relate to Youth Passageways in the coming year. Today, I share with our larger network that I have stepped down as the Stewardship Council Co-Chair and would like to take this moment to thank you, the network, the spiral governance and particularly those within the staff circle and stewardship council that I have been in close connection with for the past 3 years. I bow in gratitude for the learning, the sibling-hood, the growth and commitment to help regenerate healthy passages into mature adulthood for today’s youth, witnessed every day within the various projects, working groups and conversations I found myself a part of.

My biggest prayer that I’d like to share is that any body of works I was a part of on behalf of YPW, in an effort to uplift network partners who were and are learning how best to serve and offer programming by and for queer & trans people, that that work built more than burned bridges. My mistakes and edges forge my commitment to learning, advocating, and relationship accountability, repair and transformation across identities and cultures.

Where this network may have fallen short for me or where I failed the network will be a beautiful flaw on the tapestry woven into our story during my time and I pray many of us will continue to grow and stretch in the discomfort and move towards deeper understanding. 

My story with YPW began on the island of Hawai’i (from which I just returned recently) in 2015. It was here I met Darcy Ottey, developed my skills as a Guide for Rites of Passage, and became a YPW Ambassador after attending the 2016 gathering in Los Angeles. I then sailed across the Atlantic and lived unanchored until 2018, when I returned to Turtle Island, and participated in two of our network partners’ programs. First, a two week Rite of Passage Journeys’ Leadership Intensive guided by Darcy & Cameron, also our Co-Director & SC Treasurer, in the Pacific Northwest, followed by summertime with Youth on Fire & Melissa Michaels and the rite of passage movement community at Golden Bridge in Boulder, CO. My relationship to YPW deepened in autumn when I made my way to All Nations Gathering Center in Yellow Bear Canyon, SD for a YPW healing ceremony. Invited by Youth Passageways guardians Becky & Dallas Chief Eagle I reconnected with many folks I hadn’t seen since our LA Gathering in 2016. By the end of that year, 2018, I said, “Yes!” to join the YPW Stewardship Council and become the Secretary. I also said “Yes!” to drop anchor in the Bay Area of the Ohlone people, supporting my partner and now fiancé while they finished grad school.

When the pandemic and uprisings happened in 2020, now the Co-Chair of Youth Passageways, I found myself closer to the Leadership Circle. I was lucky to have the ability and time to plug in where I was needed and where I felt I could bring my gifts. We birthed the YPW Education & Consulting Collective in the midst of the fires, offering caucus spaces for both the People of the Global Majority and aspiring and committed white anti-racists in the network. We planned and held our first virtual Stewardship Council gathering in autumn. I was a part of creating systems of accountability and assessment for our staff and leadership within YPW. I supported our “Core 4” in organizing monthly Stewardship Council meetings. And I hope throughout my time my input for website updates, particularly the partner listing classifications and specifically the gender & sexuality search, provide a container of belonging and a tool for LGBTQIA2S+ people and my Queer & Trans kin. 

I feel I have served our mission, the organization and the people I call family well. I trust the fruits of my labors will come to bear in deep time and I remain open and curious, with the ability to witness and remain close and supportive to those meaningful relationships I have invested in. I hope that the fires that have forged YPW into our current stage of development (still a young organization!) bring with it an accountability  and vulnerability that shepherds us through a collective, regenerative, healthy passage into the conscious and embodied adult leaders serving young people in these uncertain times. 

What’s next for me? Well, I’ll continue to be in contact and involved with the YPW Education & Consulting Collective and assisting with fundraising for now. I’m completing my SomaSource Practitioner studies with Golden Bridge and am on the Production team for Surfing the Creative here in Boulder, CO this July. I’m volunteering with OUT Boulder, learning how to DJ, tending to my website, participating in a Queer Mirroring training and becoming a foster parent. I’m creating home. If you’re ever in the area, hit me up, I’d love to show you.

Queer Odyssey

(image by Dane Z)

~ dancin’ bodhisattva in service to humans rising up & gettin’ down.

With love &  gratitude,

Jett Cazeaux



This solstice transition, Youth Passageways is excited to share the third video in the series, “What’s Your Part in Partnership?” Check it out to learn more about long-time Youth Passageways partner, All Nations Gathering Center in Yellow Bear Canyon, South Dakota. All Nations Gathering Center is a Sacred gathering place where Becky and Dallas Chief Eagle support their Oglala Lakota community’s healing from the intergenerational trauma of genocide by restoring their connection with Spirit and resurrecting their traditional lifeways.

Youth Passageways and All Nations Gathering Center have become siblings to each other, partners in mutual support toward a shared dream. Please give generously toward both in your end of year giving. 

Support all Nations Gathering Center Support Youth Passageways

What’s Your Part in Partnership? Are you interested in being featured in an upcoming WPP video? Would you like to be a Youth Passageways Solidarity Partner? Please reach out to


Rarely does lasting change come in isolation. 

Change–transformative change, the kind needed to move from one stage of life into the next, or to stop harm, or to bring forth healing–is cultivated by many hands. 

Lasting change takes much more than one person, community, or even any one movement. It takes partnership, alliances of mutual care, and support. This is what Youth Passageways is all about: learning how to work together across differences, carrying a prayer and a dream that ALL youth are supported, loved, and nourished on their path to adulthood, able to bring forth their unique gifts and a sense of belonging as part of healthy, healing, self-determining communities.

The stronger Youth Passageways is, the better we can show up for our partners. The more we show up for our partners, the stronger Youth Passageways becomes. This video, featuring the work of long-time Youth Passageways partner Circle Ways, is an example of what this sort of mutual support looks like:

Consider making a gift today to support Youth Passageways’ work with partners like the Ever Forward Club, Circle Ways ,and so many more…

Rarely does lasting change come in isolation. 

Change–transformative change, the kind needed to move from one stage of life into the next, or to stop harm, or to bring forth healing–is cultivated by many hands. 

Lasting change takes much more than one person, community, or even any one movement. It takes partnership, alliances of mutual care, and support. This is what Youth Passageways is all about: learning how to work together across differences, carrying a prayer and a dream that ALL youth are supported, loved, and nourished on their path to adulthood, able to bring forth their unique gifts and a sense of belonging as part of healthy, healing, self-determining communities.

The stronger Youth Passageways is, the better we can show up for our partners. The more we show up for our partners, the stronger Youth Passageways becomes. This video, featuring the work of long-time Youth Passageways partner Ever Forward Club/Siempre Adelante, is an example of what this sort of mutual support looks like:

Consider making a gift today to support partners like the Ever Forward Club and so many more…


“Spirit always invests in relationships first in order to make the changes needed…Social will is what lifts the world.” – Orland Bishop

At Youth Passageways, as we seek to build a vibrant, resilient network of partners regenerating healthy passages for all youth in mature adulthood, we recognize that part of our work as a growing, deepening community is engaging with money as a healing force for change. These are hard times. For many of our partners, these have been hard times for generations. The work we are doing is vitally important, but often under-resourced. In order to ensure that all young people receive the care, healing, support, and resources they need to bring forth their unique gifts in service to their communities, we must support and uplift each other in order to. We especially see the responsibility of our network to support our Black, and Indigenous, and trans/nonbinary kin throughout the globe, given the disproportionate impacts of violence and oppression affecting these communities.

Please donate today to one or more of the amazing Solidarity Partners listed below. Contact darcy (at) if you would like more information on this initiative and how to get involved. 

YPW Solidarity Partners


All Nations Gathering Center 

All Nations, in the heart of the Yellow Bear Canyon of South Dakota aims provides a safe, nourishing and loving environment so our loved ones can reconnect, learn and heal one another with their medicines and gifts.

See the impact All Nations is having through the Tatanka Alliance forged with the Mankind Project

What’s Needed?

See a current list of working projects and contribute to All Nations Gathering Center by clicking on the link below. Help plant seeds for future generations!

Buffalo Visions

Buffalo Visions uplifts Northern Cheyenne youth and all who visit through teaching cultural traditions and skills, connecting people with the land and welcoming cross-cultural exchanges with youth and mentors of kindred communities.

See the impact Buffalo Visions is having through their Summer camps for youth.

What’s Needed?

Buffalo Visions is seeking continued support to help reinforce the program-building work serving Cheyenne youth.


Youth Justice Coalition (YJC)

(YJC) is works to build a youth, family, and formerly and currently incarcerated people’s movement to challenge America’s addiction to incarceration and race, gender and class discrimination in Los Angeles County’s, California’s and the nation’s juvenile and criminal injustice systems.

What’s Needed?

YJC asks you to support their active Calls to Action in and around Los Angeles. You can find a full list HERE. Or consider donating specifically to their FREELA project by clicking on the button below!

Rites of Decolonization, a podcast on the role of ritual in decolonization centered on People(s) of the Global Majority.

This podcast is fruit from seeds sown in conjunction with Youth Passageways, and the culture-bearer work of Kathara Pilipino Indigenous Arts Society. The intention of this podcast is to expand awareness of the global efforts to renew initiatory rites of passage to societies around the world that have been historically disrupted from their Indigenous practices. Bridging the divide between the people of their homelands and the diaspora, this is an emergent strategy to make use of the pandemic to give rise to a future that has understood the past well enough not to perpetuate its harms. With analysis we make movement towards holding change with mutual aid, reparations grounded in ceremony.

What’s Needed?

The Rites of Decolonization team is currently looking for financial support to offset the cost of annual podcast hosting as well as those interested in working on branding artwork for the series. If interested contact Sobey Wing HERE.

Over this past couple of years, Youth Passageways has found itself serendipitously situated to work together with partners and allies. Here is a current list of our emerging and ongoing collaborations as well as some of the ways those have begun taking shape alongside some of the truly wonderful folks we’re honored to work with and support.


So many things are happening in the world of the Ever Forward Club! We are pleased to announce the launch of the #MillionMaskMovement Peer Mentoring Program! The Peer Mentoring Program trains students to bring the Million Mask Movement into their schools and communities. As the local team says, there is #strengthinnumbers 💯 

And Inspired by the courage, strength and resilience exhibited by the students who submitted over 50,000 masks for our Million Mask Movement, we brought to life: Ever Forward Club: The Adventure Game! We have created something completely new and different to our community and the Card Game Space. Combining our 15+ years of experience working with thousands of kids, we took our deep understanding of social emotional learning and turned it into a Universe that kids themselves can become part of – maybe even a character in our future expansion packs! We aim to introduce kids worldwide to the social emotional universe of the Ever Forward Club by equipping every teacher with their own deck and providing more youth with the the ability to identify their feelings and express them in healthy ways.

And finally, The Ever Forward Club is preparing to present at SXSW EDU in 2022 to share with educators the work that we have been doing to help improve education for all students, especially for those students who enjoy school the least.

Now we are making these resources available to educators throughout the world to use them in order to build healthier relationships between students, teachers and schools. To learn more or get involved, head HERE!

In early July, The Ojai Foundation and Youth Passageways marked the completion of the inaugural year of our collaborative project, The FIRE Fellowship. Launching a pilot program in a pandemic year was a journey worth taking, and stretched all of us into creative solutions to unforeseen challenges. Our situation is not unique, as people around the world are finding new ways to live, do business and, perhaps most importantly, to relate. While we longed for the kind of togetherness that deep retreat can afford, we made the most of what was possible in the time that we had and emphasized incorporation of key practices from day one. We look forward to what will unfold for all of our alumni, and for the relationships that were seeded and watered through the Fellowship. We are in a redesign process for future FIRE programming. Stay tuned.

Additionally, Re-Calling Our Ancestors, an exploration in ancestral recovery, truth-telling, truth-seeking, and collective repair is in development right now! Course details will be announced soon. Stay tuned.

After many months of listening and “waiting and seeing” about how Covid would play out for the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, our cross-cultural organizing team decided to move forward with plans for a small focused work party at the Buffalo Visions land in August. On the eve of the arrival day, evacuation orders were given for most of the Northern Cheyenne Reservation due to a large wildfire that had rapidly grown to threaten the main town of Lame Deer. Through a few hours of dialogue, it was decided that the 20+ people planning to travel for the work party would stay home. Thanks to firefighters and first responders, the 170k acre Richard Spring fire did relatively little damage. Please send healing prayers for Sharon and Hubert Blackwolf, as they undergo and heal from major surgeries this summer, and their community rebuilds after a deadly winter of Covid and summer of wildfire damage and smoke. Though it has been disappointing to not gather in 2021, relationships have continued to strengthen this year, and ideas and inspiration for 2022 are abundant.


YPW recently began a research collaboration with faculty at University of San Francisco (School of Nursing Public Health Department and Environmental Studies Department), Dominican University of California (Global Public Health Department), and Naropa University (Interdisciplinary Studies). We will be looking at how rites of passage impact the immediate and long term health and wellbeing of participants, communities and society, and developing a long-term research strategy that serves partners and informs policy and funding priorities. 

Our intentions are that this research:

  • Collects and interprets data on the individual, community and societal benefits of rites of passage 
  • Identifies benefits and gaps in individual rite of passage initiatives, as well as in rite of passage work as a whole
  • Emphasizes community-determined metrics of success, moving quickly towards decolonized research methodology, 
  • Is grounded in the multiplicity of language, values, and approaches which make up our diverse network

In the first phase of the project, we will be synthesizing existing literature and research from interdisciplinary sources and collecting information from partners and participants. Interested in getting involved or want to be kept in the loop? Please reach out to Darcy or Sobey <link>. 

Welcome to Queer Nature and Fierce Allies’ Centering Justice Project, two of our newest fiscall sponsees. Stay tuned for more information on the important, visionary work these partners are bringing forward into the world. Read more in the YPW Collaborations section.

Dear White Partners of the Youth Passageways Network,

We are reaching out to you, in this intense time for humanity and specifically the United States, with an invitation to weave deeper with Youth Passageways’ work in 2021, and a request for immediate financial support. 

We are asking you specifically because it is our understanding that your group is led by and/or predominantly serves white communities. We believe that we as white folks have a particular opportunity and responsibility to support the next steps of building the visionary, multicultural network that is Youth Passageways.

We see you as an ally in this effort.

This last year painfully illustrated how far we have to go in building a future that works for all of us, and also highlighted the role that groups like Youth Passageways have to play. More people are waking up to the need to look outside of mainstream solutions, and are turning to grassroots communities that have been preserving traditional ways for generations. In order to see holistic systems change in education, mental health, youth development, and law enforcement–the institutions that matter in the lives of young people today–requires building broader and deeper webs of connection. 

This is where Youth Passageways–and you–come in.

Slowly, steadily, and in our own small way, Youth Passageways is building a multicultural, multigenerational family of mutual support –a rite of passage network rooted in a commitment to systems change, including supporting indigenous-led decolonization efforts, cultural reclamation, reparations, and healing.  Our vision is that ALL young people will grow up with a deep sense of identity, belonging, and purpose–a prayer often hard to fund amidst the urgency of the moment. 

Why now? Why is our collective work and multicultural network important to support NOW with all that is moving for each of us, for our organizations and communities? For many of our partner organizations, the challenges that are being presented are beyond our imagination. The impacts of COVID, economic instability, health disparities, ongoing state violence, violent and hateful rhetoric, and the rollbacks of even modest policy gains, have left their communities in deep states of distress. We, as partners of the Youth Passageways network, are practicing mutual support and reciprocity toward the long-term goal of shifting these systemic inequities.

Since Youth Passageways’ founding, many People of the Global Majority (PoGM, a term used to replace the language “People of Color” which honors that they are not “minorities” but are actually the majority, and honors the wide variations in skin color) , from all sorts of racial and cultural backgrounds, have worked to support and build the network. PoGM have taken risks, introducing white leadership within the Youth Passageways network to their young people, communities, and organizations. The rate of progress at times has been painfully slow, as PoGM leadership has had to navigate all the subtle and not-so-subtle impacts of whiteness in Youth Passageways. 

All the emotional, spiritual, and practical labor by BIPOC leaders is incredible investment, highlighting commitment and belief in the vision. As prison abolitionist and former Co-Chair of the Youth Passageways Stewardship Council Kruti Parekh said recently in a  letter to the network:

Youth Passageways is growing into a network equally rooted in anti-oppression and ceremony. We understand that education, spirituality, healing, and justice have always been deeply intertwined, that rites of passage have been stolen from too many of our people. To shift this on a broad scale it is important to center our Black and Indigenous family, particularly efforts led by young people, women, and LGBTQ2SIA+ kin.

In preparation for the next cycle, Youth Passageways is taking a winter season (in the Northern Hemisphere) to renew our vision, integrate all of the changes of 2020, complete key projects, and prepare for a spring season of new beginnings, regeneration and systemic transformation. 

With your help, we are intending to raise $22,000 between now and the full moon of January 28th, to support Youth Passageways’ essential operations through the spring. 

We call upon all of our partners of privilege to give generously this winter: to make two financial gifts to strengthen the network, one to Buffalo Visions, an Indigenous-led partner organization and one to Youth Passageways.

We invite you to share this call to action with 5 individuals or organizations in your network.

As Guardian Gigi Coyle recently described Youth Passageways’ efforts towards building a solidarity fund, 

RIght now, Youth Passageways needs your financial support to take the next steps toward building a network of support for us all. 

Please give what you can.

In love and solidarity,

Darcy Ottey, Siri Gunnarson, Jett Cazeaux, Dane Zahorsky,

Cameron Withey Byrne, Lia Bentley & Gigi Coyle

P.S. Your support helps build a strong multiracial, intergenerational rite of passage movement. Please give generously before the full moon on January 28th!

*a special thanks to the Revolutionary Love Project for the visual inspiration for our heart design!


Dear Youth Passageways Community, my Spiritual Family,

It’s with so much love, gratitude and continued partnership that I share some important news.  During this year’s Stewardship Council (SC) Retreat (annual gathering for the warriors and vision keepers of Youth Passageways (YPW)), so beautifully held by our staff and SC members, I stepped down as SC Member and Co-Chair.  This annual sacred retreat is where so much magic happens, where the people who share the YPW vision are invited to help evaluate the year, create shared space for power and practice and create space so the right people take the right seats.  5 years ago at a similar retreat, when there was a moment for folks to step up and join the SC, the spirit moved through the room, a clank on the window and Sharon (Bearcomesout) Blackwolf (dear native elder, Buffalo Visions) yanked me up to serve my term.  The multiple terms lasted 5 beautiful years!

Through these 5 years I spiraled into the center-most part.  I served on the leadership circle for the last few years, conspiring with Dane, Darcy and Marisa to help honor a leadership model that best reflects the YPW Governance & Values — A Map of Wholeness.  It has been an absolute joy and pleasure to be in these seats and in this network.  I am humbled by the generosity of shared vision, prayer and power.

Over much of the time that I served in these leadership roles, I was working as a coach and consultant, with the incredible privilege of making up my own hours!!  Last June (2019), I was invited to apply for a dream job – helping the County of Los Angeles  (native land of the Tongva & Kizh people) release youth from lock up and to redirect carceral dollars into a youth development infrastructure in Los Angeles.  While I walked away from the demands of organizing for justice in 2015 due to burnout, I felt ready to serve in this way again.  I had recovered and incorporated so many healing & resiliency practices from our beautiful network.  I can bring these gifts to the ground on a daily basis.  While I remained connected to the YPW center the whole time, I have been unable to keep up the work & time commitment that was required to be responsible to the team.  And Locally, the decades/centuries prayers have been answered – we just passed a motion in Los Angeles County (native land of the Tongva & Kizh people) where all young people will gradually be transitioned away from incarceration.  Simultaneously, a youth development infrastructure will be built up to fully divert young people and have watering holes in every community for youth and families to help with healing and cultural reclamation.  Imagine!  My 5 year plan is to ensure this transition happens successfully locally.

This year, the unforgettable 2020, the year of the pandemic, uprisings, rings of fires and mass transitions of loved ones have revealed a great deal.  The uprisings have forced us all to critically look at our lives — and organizations —and networks to see how we are doing in creating a cross cultural existence.  I want to report back to you that I am so proud of us.  YPW leadership has shown up powerfully during this time. Our roots, values, culture and relationships have been our anchors during this overwhelming time.  YPW leaders have been in service to our most vulnerable partners, showing up with so much love, care, support and allyship.  YPW leaders have also been there to assist individuals and organizations through the fires of internal struggles towards transformation.

I watched as partner organizations decided to turn inward, grappling with information about racial inequity and cultural inflexibility that socialization blocked from being addressed in the past — and an openness to have the conversations and make some critical changes.  I love that when local partners are needing support around anti-racism training and support, I can turn to my partners within the ECC (Education & Consulting Collective).  Over this period of awakenings and unearthing, YPW has been prepared and preparing, especially spiritually, ahead of the physical unfoldings.  I am so proud of the network for the level of consciousness, thoughtfulness, creativity, solidarity and action.

In a recent conversation with YPW SC Chair Jett Cazeaux, I realized a few important things I’d like to share.  YPW was an important bridge for me to meet native kin, learn about decolonizing practices and amplify cultural exchange opportunities.  My prayer is that more of that happens — in a way that YPW can introduce & connect and the members of the network can collaborate where the spirit takes over.  Buffalo Visions is an excellent example.  Buffalo Visions wa

s a beautiful collaboration between Sharon, Hubert, Marisa and Cameron.  This swirling twirling of amazing allowed me to bring youth and adult organizers for community transformation to Lame Deer last summer.  That experience continues to guide us as we try to decolonize LA.

My prayer and biggest wish for the network is to continue to decolonize Turtle Island.  Continue to create the bridges that need to be built so the long arc of healing and reconciliation and reparations can happen.  The network is grounded in the history of Stolen Land, Stolen Labor and Stolen Lives and this guides us.  Continue to raise consciousness, connection and helping make things right.  For my fellow people of color in the network, if you have been feeling like you want to move closer to the center of the spiral, I encourage you to step in and take your seat(s).  I encourage you to invest your leadership.  The center is ready for you and will honor your gifts and guidance.  

In the words of many but heard it first from my sister Becky Chief Eagle, I love you more.  “When I say I love you more, I don’t mean I love you more than you love me. I mean I love you more than the bad days ahead of us. I love you more than any fight we will ever have. I love you more than distance between us. I love you more than any obstacle that could ever try and come between us. I love you the most” (author unknown and share with deep gratitude).

Always, in the constellation of stars with you,



This is a central question that partners in Youth Passageway seek to explore.

Over the course of human history ritual forms have emerged that coincide with significant transitions throughout our lives: birth, coming of age, marriage and death are marked and managed through life-cycle rituals. These ritual events not only assist and support an individual’s transition to a new stage, but attend to their relationship to and the needs of their family, community, culture, ancestors, spirit, and nature.

And, the story of rites of passage occurs within the more magnificent story of the Universe.

What’s the Story?

Rites of passage were not waiting for someone to come along and name them. They have been around for an estimated forty thousand years, and are intricately connected to a culture’s cosmology, values, and basic notion of what it means to be a human being. Humans are story-making creatures in ways that help them to understand and obtain meaning from life.

Arnold van Gennep first used the term “rites of passage” in the early 1900’s, which he coined in his book Les Rites de Passage, first published in 1909 and translated for a wider audience in 1960. It was highly influential in the structuring of Joseph Campbell’s 1949 classic The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Over the last hundred years, many others have drawn on Van Gennep’s work.  In fact, many rite of passage offerings today are explicitly grounded in his three-stage model.

Today, the term rites of passage is overused to note everything from a first kiss, to drug and alcohol use, which has caused confusion and misunderstanding.

Rites of passage offer a process that is about individual personal development and socialization (discovering and nurturing one’s gifts and taking on deeper responsibilities within their culture and community) and about reconnecting with a sacred Earth in ways that can nurture life (becoming an engaged and active participant in one’s community, deeply connected to nature, culture and all one’s relations). Rites of passage serve many functions, both for an individual and for his or her community.  Some of these functions include:

  • marking a person’s change of role or status within the community
  • helping the individual and the community form a new identity relative to that change;
  • creating cultural continuity through the passing down of traditions.
  • strengthening a sense of community between people living together that contributes to their well-being and survival.

Youth Passageways is focused on rites of passage that occur during the transition from childhood to adulthood, a key transition point during the human life span.


You may not know this, but:

If you are a young person trying to navigate your way toward adulthood in an often confusing, demanding, and stressful world, rites of passage matter to you.

If you’re someone who cares about kids and are concerned about the difficulties they experience on their journey to adulthood, rites of passage matter to you.

If you are concerned about the state of the world and worry that we humans have made a pretty big mess and an increasingly inhospitable world for all of Life, rites of passage matter to you.

If you are concerned about the strength and resiliency of our communities, about whether we are socially equipped to meet an unknown and what appears to be difficult future with grace, courage and integrity, rites of passage matter to you.

If you are hopeful that we will find ways to better help each other bring forth our gifts and talents and use them in service to our communities, our world, and our future, rites of passage matter to you.

If you are hopeful we can bring forth a peaceful, just and sustainable future becoming, all of us, the kind of adults the world needs to meet its current and future challenges, rites of passage matter to you.

Rites of passage matter because of what they can do: in the lives of young people, in our own lives, and in our communities. They have the power to reach deeply into the hearts of human beings and to help people thrive, rather than just survive. Bottom line: rites of passage matter because young people matter, our communities matter, and the future matters.


If you are a young person today, nobody needs to tell you that we live in a complex, demanding world and the pressures on you is tremendous. You know how hard it is to grow up in our modern world: the speed of change, crisis after crisis in the news, few available elders or mentors, a materialistic culture driven by consumerism and greed, structural inequities, intractable social problems, global instability.

Even those of you who escape what we consider the worst outcomes (not completing high school, substance abuse, gang affiliation, pregnancy, mental illness, suicide, violence, or incarceration), probably experience some sense of social disconnection, sometimes overwhelming passivity and powerlessness, cynicism, or despair.

Opportunities to discover our authentic selves are too few and far between in our world today – and they’re not the experiences which dominate our media. It often can seem that our world values “brand” more than substance. It can feel increasingly fragmented even as our science tells us we are part of an interconnected and interdependent whole and our technology makes global communication instantaneous.

Intentional rites of passage make experiences, foster self-development, help make meaning from life’s experiences and cultivate the capacity to make choices about actions, goals and values. Because they make coming into adulthood a conscious and intentional process, healthy rites of passage cultivate a sense of personal purpose, a sense of cultural history, personal and social responsibility, a connection to nature, an acknowledgement of their new social role as adults and a sense of welcome into the community of adults.

The conditions young people face are not really so surprising because few adults today – parents, grandparents, teachers or those in leadership positions – had access to healthy social or cultural forms to help them come of age.  Raising kids today is often the “blind leading the blind,” uninitiated adults clueless about what is really required to grow healthy adults and poorly equipped to help youth achieve what they have not. For that reason, it is important to see that rites of passage are not just for or about kids, but they are also about building stronger communities and a healthier culture.


There are huge social costs for each child “lost” on the way to adulthood. Remedial education, incarceration, treatment programs, social welfare and mental health services – all of these things cost money, time and energy. But there are also human costs. Families and communities suffer in ways that are often unmeasured and intangible. But the cost of dealing with negative outcomes is just one part of the picture. The other part is what is lost to all of us when the potential contributions of ALL of us are not realized.

With rites of passage, a foundational structure is built within a culture or community, a structure that helps the community cohere. They can help us see our common humanity and celebrate our differences. As a cultural form, rites of passage provide reasons for the community to come together and celebrate, welcoming each new generation into its fold.

For communities that have lost their ways of initiating young people, rites of passage often begin to stir in adults the longing to have similar experiences and encourage the recognition of other passages along life’s journey. By providing a model of what is possible, youth rites of passage begin to create a much healthier appreciation of the rhythm of life’s journey and help us each bring forward our gifts throughout the lifespan.

We have seen rites of passage practices begin to revitalize communities. For a community, they can provide a sense of wholeness, meaning, and connection that is renewing for all. They foster generativity — the passing of cultural values and a sense of personal responsibility from generation to generation. They can help all of us feel more valued, provide a stronger sense of belonging, and help us each lead lives of deeper meaning and purpose.

In short, rites of passage in today’s world are about building a new life-affirming culture together from the ground up, or perhaps better to say, from the child up, community by community. As we strengthen the social infrastructure that rites of passage begin to build, we also foster the creativity and resiliency we humans need to meet future challenges.


If we are to survive as a viable human civilization, we can no longer allow the world’s young people to fall, one after the other, into the many traps laid for them in such a dysfunctional social environment as we seem to have created for far too many of them. We also need the gifts, creativity, and capacities of all the members of our communities. If we are not raising our youth to become the kind of adults we need to meet an unknown and challenging future with courage, integrity and a deep respect for life, our future indeed looks bleak.

“Show me your youth and I will show you the future of your nation.” Georges Vanier.

Some have begun to see in our times a call for collective or global initiation, a time in which we must come of age as a global human community, taking a new kind of responsibility for the consequences of our actions and coming into a deeper understanding of our role as humans within a larger planetary community. Revitalizing intentional rites of passage practices for youth in our contemporary multicultural world is a very important part of the work needed to forge a more positive and hopeful human future.

Intentional and community-based rites of passage woven into the fabric of our communities will help liberate human potential; knit together generations in the work of making a healthy, just and sustainable world; and cultivate an active sense of responsibility for ourselves, our communities and the planet.

As noted storyteller and rite of passage advocate and practitioner, Michael Meade reminds us:

“In many tribal cultures, it was said that if the boys were not initiated into manhood, if they were not shaped by the skills and love of elders, then they would destroy the culture. If the fires that innately burn inside youths are not intentionally and lovingly added to the hearth of community, they will burn down the structures of culture, just to feel the warmth.” Michael Meade.

As a diverse, intergenerational network of partners supporting youth in becoming healthy adults, rooted in belonging and connected to their gifts, the Youth Passageways community is experiencing the impacts of COVID-19 across much of the spectrum of what is being experienced in broader society today. 

Many are suffering at this time. This suffering is disproportionately experienced by those in the Global South; BIPOC members of our communities,  the poor and working-class, our elders and olders, and those with chronic illnesses and disabilities. Much of this disparity is due to the ongoing impact of centuries of cultural destruction, genocide, and historical injustice.

Some of the issues that our partners and their people are facing right now include:

  • Sickness of self/family members, death and loss 
  • Struggling to meet basic needs like food, water, shelter, seeds, and protective equipment 
  • Youth and adults being  incarcerated in the COVID-19 pandemic, without family, unsafe, without access to physical distancing or adequate medical care
  • Facing threats to civil liberties and basic safety
  • Lack of meaningful engagement for young people who are out of school
  • Dealing with the financial impacts of loss of livelihood
  • Unable to gather to mark important individual and community transitions
  • Struggling with anxiety, depression, and social isolation; nervous system overwhelm
  • Needing support in making meaning and understanding what is happening on a mythological, cultural, emotional, and spiritual level.

As a network, we center decolonization, reconciliation, reparations, and cultural reclamation as essential components of restoring healthy passages into adulthood.  In this time of global transformation, we offer prayers to our ancestors that they be close to us in this time, that we remember them, and receive from them their guidance as those who know the terrain of pandemics and cultural and economic transformation. We call upon our partners, allies, and the broader community to hold tight to each other while maintaining spacious solidarity and doing all that we can to protect one another’s safety,  support those most vulnerable and disenfranchised among us, and take bold steps toward the future we wish to offer to our descendants.  

At Youth Passageways we know that when we create pathways of wholeness, love, and liberation for all youth, we ensure that we don’t criminalize, isolate, or abandon anyone. Now is a moment to live this truth with all of our hearts.

From Gordon Ondiek Nyabade, Director, Go Fishnet Happy Kids, KENYA

The situation on Coronavirus is pathetic as many kids we care for have returned to their homes for quarantine and we don’t have adequate access to many of them…some of whom we cared for in a special way as they are orphans from HIV and AIDS background.

We can’t help with their medication, feeding program as they are quarantined at pathetic homes. Schools are closed… I started a private school where these 147 kids could get free education and free feeding. I founded this school seven years ago in Ahero village near Kisumu city in western Kenya. It mainly admits vulnerable kids who come from a very humble background most if whom are orphans and needy.

The school is called Go Fishnet Happy Kids academy. The name comes from an abbreviation of my first name “Gordon” and the second abbreviation “Fishnet” is my vision to bring out or fish out vulnerable and poor children in Kenya from the great seas or waters of illiteracy, diseases, poverty and lack of opportunity to learning, good health and wellbeing.

We offer free feeding program and free learning at school with a population of 147 kids and ten teachers and non teaching staff including cooks, caretakers and management.

Our present challenges include high level of poverty, disease such as HIV and AIDS and its rapid spread, lack of education materials and facilities, feeding as most kids in their homes are orphans and come from very low economy background and most current heavy challenge is the Coronavirus which has contributed to our school closure among all other schools here, lack of adequate food and water due to a self quarantined isolation life without means for families to look for food for their families and strict movements causing everyone to stay home and unable to work or look for food and water…market places closed.

Being a social society, its now very hard for us who believed in communal life to isolate and live lonely lives as many kids already suffer isolation and idleness.


How you can support Gordon and his work:

I can possibly get any donation of kids items but always at the customs department there are charges for such items. We have kids from ages 4 to 12 both boys and girls who come from very humble background and are affected by HIV and AIDS and some are orphans.

I personally really need any used laptop for email and to organise private lessons for our kids because schools are closed and kids are home. I would like to visit them in a group of five each for all of them to teach them using a computer.

How to reach Gordon: 
You can reach me through WhatsApp and phone number (+254701655048) or emailing (

Free distribution of food to kids of our project: