Rites Of Passage: The Power of Purpose, Strategy and Community

By: Fawaaz F. Fields


As a Lead Facilitator, in the Sankofa (Rite of) Passages Program in Philadelphia, PA. I developed a vision focusing on network-wide experiences that would foster true relationship building amongst the students and facilitators, laterally, and across sites. All while cultivating creative collaboration of site resources to support these shared experiences.

A prominent initiative under this platform was the “College Shadowing Day at Howard University”. After an initial conversation with my administration and development of a strategic and financial plan, I garnered a commitment from each facilitator to identify seven students at their site. The facilitators also agreed to create a “pre-trip” experience in order to prepare our students. Lastly, they agreed to serve as a liaison between their site’s cohort and the undergraduates serving as Big Brothers/Sisters on the bigday.
Next, I traveled to Washington, D.C. and met with fiveprofessors at Howard University. They allowed me to present the “College Shadowing Day” experience before ten of their classes. During the fall and winter months, I spoke to 800 undergraduates; which resulted in 400 undergraduates expressing interest. In addition, two professors agreed to facilitate an interactive lecture to initiate the mid-day “Higher Learning” panel discussion between the high school and undergraduate students.

Also, I partnered with the Kwame Ture Society (KTS), a prominent organization at the university. KTS would serve as the liaison between the professors and administration and address any problems that surfaced. They assisted with phone banking, follow-up emails, facilitating “Higher Learning” socials, and were point of contact for the undergraduates the day of the trip. KTS and our partner professors provided needed support in the on-campus preparation and trip execution, since I was in Philadelphia most of the time.

In order to anchor the student engagement that KTSfacilitated, I developed a “Create Your Own Path” form; which was a requirement for the prospective Big Brothers/Sisters. Dually, it served as a pre-meditated guide for the volunteers and a tracking tool for KTS and I.

On April 8, 2014, after months of planning and preparation, three buses departed from Philadelphia with 105 students and 15 facilitators.

Upon arrival, 60 university students were patiently anticipating the experience. Our students intimately engaged the university experience by attending select classes of their Big Brother/ Sister and spending time on campus. The “Higher Learning” lecture and panel attracted 20 additional undergraduates and a slue of university administrators and faculty. Our young men walked in the footsteps of college students, sat at the feet of African men by the likes of Dr. Mario Beatty and Dr. Greg Carr, they received practical advice and affirmations from their new extended family and developed memories that demystified the college experience. Leading this experience reinforced my belief that cultivating healthy relationships, clearly delegating duties, and embracing the collective’s forte can create life-changing experiences for all who engage.

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