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Washington State University Extension

Rite of Passage

What is 4-H Youth Rite of Passage?

4-H is this nation’s premier youth development program.  It is based on ropdevelopmentally appropriate practices and research-validated curriculums that promote life skills and core learning for competent, healthy maturing youth.  4-H Rite of Passage is a new addition to the WSU 4-H Challenge Program.

The 4-H Rite of Passage program was originally developed in conjunction with The School of Lost Borders in California.  For over 35 years they have provided vision fasts for youth and adults as well as training for future vision fast guides.  The School of Lost Borders programs are now available internationally.

Culturally appropriate rites of passage from adolescence into adulthood are critically important.  Without accepted and honored ceremonies, adolescents are initiating each other into adulthood using the symbols of “maturity” that they see as the privilege of adults around them: alcohol, drugs, violence, and sex.

4-H in Washington State offers an alternative: a culturally appropriate rite of passage through a vision fast in the wilderness.  We prepare initiates for as much as a 3-day fast alone, with minimum shelter, in the natural world.  The vision fast process for participants involves 3 phases:

Severance: leaving the world that they know

Threshold: time alone

Incorporation: reentry into a new life and life status as a young adult.

Benefits of the Rite of Passage?

The benefits of this work at the individual and cultural levels are many and include: self-knowledge (both strengths and weaknesses), leadership skills, self-esteem, self-confidence, sense of responsibility for self and community, fuller access to emotions, feelings and spirit, respect for self and others and a deep honoring of the natural world that supports us all.

2019 ROP Brochure (pdf)


2016 Program Impact Report

“The Courage of Becoming” Confluence Journal 1:1, 2016

(pdf version of “The Courage of Becoming” )