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Rite Of Passage Initiative comes to KSC

From Len Fleischer:

The Keene State College Rite of Passage Initiative will commence in August 2010. This campus-wide effort will convene conversations, trainings and presentations for first year students and their families, student leaders, administrators, staff, and faculty. The initiative, co-created and supported by a diverse group of administrators, staff and faculty, affirms the college experience as a place of passage into healthy adulthood. You are warmly invited to be part of the community conversation about “coming of age,” whatever your age or role, in the following ways:

August 4, 9-11 a.m.: Training for Residential Life Administrators, Directors (Thorne Art Gallery)
August 23, 9-11 a.m.: Training for Resident Assistants, Student Leaders (Redfern Recital Hall)
August 23, 2-4 p.m.: Open Training for Administrators, Staff, and Faculty (Thorne Art Gallery)
August 24 10 a.m.-noon: Open Training for Administrators, Staff, and Faculty (Thorne Art Gallery)
August 24 1-3 p.m.: Training for Education faculty (Thorne Art Gallery)
August 26 6:30-8 p.m. and 8:15-9:45 p.m. Presentations for 1st Year Students (Mabel Brown Room)
August 28 6:30-8 p.m. and 8:15-9:45 p.m. Presentations for 1st Year Students (Mabel Brown Room)

Please RSVP to Carol Fairbanks at by August 16th to register for the August 23-24 trainings. A brief pre-training survey will be sent to you.

If you would like to learn more about the KSC Rite of Passage Initiative, and “KSC Passage: It’s Our Choice,” please read on and/or contact Len Fleischer at

In order to help Keene State students further develop a sense of belonging and connection with our college community, a diverse group of Keene State College administrators, faculty and staff have been meeting over the past two years to co-create a cultural shift that seeks to affirm the college experience as a place of passage into healthy adulthood.
Through the support of a strategic prevention grant from Monadnock Voices for Prevention, comprehensive strategies will be developed and deployed to guide students’ natural impulses to invent rites of passage experiences to test and affirm their transition from adolescence to adulthood. The focus is to guide those impulses towards safe, productive leisure-time activities.
Life is full of transitions. Among the biggest are birth, marriage and death. These major transitions are all associated with special events such as weddings and funerals, called rites of passage. There is compelling evidence as to the essential role rites of passage have always played for the personal and social development of human beings and their communities.
During the coming year, beginning with 2010 Orientation, educational opportunities will be provided that will include experiences for the college community to understand, conceptually and experientially, what might be possible. This will include:
• Providing an overview of rites of passage, the developmental stage of college students and their parents and the impact of transitions on human beings.
• Providing an overview of the structure of youth and community development through rites of passage.
• Promoting conversations with diverse constituency groups for each to identify what they may currently be doing that encourages healthy youth development.
• Creating settings for community conversations that will put into motion a rites of passage strategy, including the recognition and enhancement of what is already being done on campus.
• Developing a college community of conscious, mindful and capable collaborators in the ongoing design, implementation and continuous improvement of Keene State College as a place of significant transformation for young adults.

The major goal of this effort is to develop an infrastructure that can address the particular challenges of the transition for beginning students at KSC. It will broaden peer education and student leader involvement, and engage administration, faculty, and staff in mentoring academic and student affairs experiences that offer alternatives to messages that encourage drinking as a perceived passage to adulthood by:
• Reframing the Problem: Acknowledging that college is a place of initiation, where young people come of age and are mentored in their development as adults.
• Development & Training of a Leadership Team: Bringing together the diverse citizenry of a college community–students, staff, faculty and administration-to create and support a team of community leaders who take responsibility for sustaining the College initiative, and for mentoring first year students.
• Creating a Positive Context for Declaring Independence: Providing a structure that guides entering students in investigating and connecting with health-promoting activities, while developing abilities to make responsible decisions.
• Engaging Parents: Educating parents on how to support their sons’ and daughters’ adjustment to, and success in, college.
• Giving Students Responsibility for Mentoring the Next Class: Creating opportunities for first-year students to give back to the college community in subsequent years by becoming College leaders and mentors.
• Orient Students to College: Building skills necessary for academic and social success and competence, helping them find “their place” for their pursuit of happiness and healthy fun, exploring ways to be of service and to mentor others.

Unlike other major transitions, cultural rituals in America do not effectively assist the transition to adulthood. The lack of clearly established rites of passage in the United States is partly due to the ambiguity about when one becomes an adult. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reports that first year students who live on campus are at higher risk for misusing alcohol than their non-college attending peers. NIAAA suggests that the first 6 weeks of college are especially important because that is when students often initiate heavy use of alcohol as part of their transition into college. Particularly in the first year, college students often tend to believe that alcohol helps them navigate the treacherous path from their adolescent selves to their adult selves. Thus, students tend to initiate each other into what they believe it means to be an adult, while the adult community can be unclear about how to support and mentor them.
Whatever else college may be to such a diverse citizenry, it is clearly a place for students to come of age. Rarely do we intentionally capitalize on the natural power of college as a place of passage to positively affect students and the rest of the college community. KSC is among the first colleges in our country to make this commitment.
It is the objective of the Rite of Passage Initiative to provide developmental information that will focus on first year students, student leaders, and staff, faculty, and community mentors, to establish positive college experiences as a normative passage to healthy adulthood. The long-term goal of this initiative is to create a path toward a cultural shift from binge drinking, beginning by acknowledging students’ natural impulses to create rite of passage experiences to test and affirm their transition from teenagers to adults. It then engages the entire college community in guiding those impulses towards safe, productive leisure-time activities, while supporting academic success. The KSC Rite of Passage Initiative paves the way for healthier student choices, and a significant shift in the culture of our college.

The KSC Rite of Passage Initiative is based upon youth and community development through a Rite of Passage Experience© (ROPE®) developed by David Blumenkrantz, Ph.D., and the Center for the Advancement of Youth, Family and Community Services, Inc., Keene State’s consultants for this initiative.

UPDATE 8/12/10: Because of a schedule conflict with Opening Week events, the August 23 afternoon open training for administrators, faculty, and staff has been changed from 2-4 to 3:30-5. For those who have not yet had a chance to register for either this one or the very similar training the next morning, please do so by Monday, August 16.

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