ATLANTIC CITY — Shermaine Gunter-Gary has seen hundreds of young people come through Rites of Passage during her 27 years with the program.
But this class seemed extra special.
“You teach young people a lot of stuff and you plant the seed but you don’t get to see the flowers grow,” said Gunter-Gary. “With this class, we saw a lot of flowers grow.”
The Atlantic City Rites of Passage program celebrated its 40 th Anniversary on Tuesday, May 30 at the Atlantic City All Wars Memorial building.
Some students showed signs of improved self-esteem. Others began winning battles with mental health. And one student even came up with a slogan that the class put on T-shirts.
“We’re not doing it that way. We’re not doing it the other way. We’re going to do it the Rites of Passage Way,” Gunter-Gary said.
When the students’ behavior became less than desirable, they would remind each other to do things “the Rites of Passage way,” she said.
Rites of Passage falls under the Atlantic County Council of Youth Programs, which is part of the Empowerment Tools Coalition.
Gunter-Gary said students learn about African American History and go through more than 20 workshops from October through May that help them make the transition to adulthood.
“At the beginning of each of the workshops they get some information about the motherland and some history of how they got to where they are,” Gunter-Gary said.
There are three classes dedicated specifically to the African American experience:
- History, Herstory
- My Black Magic; and
- Healing Roots.
Sign-ups for the next class will begin in July. Classes will be held on Tuesdays from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Second Baptist Church. There are 16 slots available, for 8 boys and 8 girls.
For more information about the Atlantic City Rites of Passage program visit the Empowerment Tools Coalition website.
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