Five middle-school girls from the Feiler Park neighborhood have completed a “rite of passage” program and were recognized in a formal ceremony in June . The Harambee Rite of Passage program is a comprehensive program that assists youth in making a healthy transition into adulthood. It is designed to build character, pride, and self-esteem in the participants, and places a strong emphasis on cultural heritage and history.
The Rev. Betty M. Jones, Step Up Savannah board member and graduate of its Neighborhood Leadership Academy, organized the program for the young women, ages 12 to 15. The seventh and eighth graders went through an intensive six-month program of training, and were celebrated at St. Peters Missionary Baptist Church on June 15, 2013.
Lillian Grant-Baptiste acted as lead facilitator, the young women are: Allisha Eady, Yakini Chambers, Abrea Chung, Angel Holmes, and Kya Key. Starting in January, the girls, facilitator and mentors gathered for several hours on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month. Five elders and nine mentors vvolunteered their time as part of the rite of passage program.
Elders from surrounding neighborhoods were invited to speak about thier personal histories as well as the history of slavery in Savannah, and more. The program also stressed community service and the idea of giving back to the community. Rev. Jones said she wanted the girls to learn “how to live in community, how to get involved in community, and respect for authority.”
Most sessions were held at Feiler Park Resource Center on West 57th Street; however the group met at other locations for educational or other purposes. For instance, they participated in two retreats at the New Ebenezer Retreat Center in Rincon.
Rev. Jones was able to cover costs of the program through a small grant she received from Step Up Savannah through a competitive process open to Neighborhood Leadership Academy graduates.
The young women will continue to be followed and offered support until they complete high school, Rev. Jones said.
For more information about the Harambee Rite of Passage program, please call Rev. Betty M. Jones at (912) 236-1974. For questions about Step Up Savannah or its Neighborhood Leadership Academy, contact Step Up at (912) 232-6747 or visit our Web site at www.stepupsavannah.org.