The Coming of Age (COA) program is a two to three year teen mentoring program for 6th, 7th and 8th grade youth, offering guidance and support as they transition through the challenging adolescent years. This is a time when young people are consciously or unconsciously taking their first steps toward fulfilling the universal need for initiation. Stepping Stones is dedicated to creating meaningful rites of passages for youth to help them consciously forge new connections to themselves, their communities, and the environment.
The COA program creates a much needed support system, for youth and their parent(s), providing opportunities to fully explore this important time of emotional transition. As an adolescent the center of gravity shifts from looking to the nuclear family to looking to peers and society for reflections of self and building relationships. The fundamental task at hand for youth is to develop a self that is both authentic and socially acceptable. Conscious mentoring calls in the need to develop and recognize this true self rather than just letting it happen. The long-term nature of the group helps to develop confidence, self-esteem, and the capacity to engage in meaningful relationships with peers, family, community, and nature. Since its inception in 2002, SSP has served hundreds of youth and their families throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and is the only long-term program of its kind.
Under the guidance of two Stepping Stones leaders, the group of 8 same-gender and same-grade youth meets twice a month until the fall of 9th grade. Some groups decide to continue on through high school due to the unique and valuable support the youth feel they are getting from the group. The program offers an opportunity for youth to explore themselves within the contexts of spirit, psyche, culture, biology and nature. The curriculum provides the four elements traditional cultures saw as key to preparing for adolescence:
- mentoring by a non-parent
- a positive sense of authentic self within a group
- a grounded relationship with nature
- a personal code of honor
A Critical Developmental Stage
“The longing for initiation is universal and for modern youth, it is a desperate need. When nothing is offered in the way of spiritual initiation to prove one’s entry into the world of men and women, initiation happens instead in the road or the street, in cars at high speed, with drugs, with dangerous sex, with weapons. However troubling, this behavior is rooted in a fundamental truth: a need to grow.” - Jack Cornfield, Member of Stepping Stones Project’s Advisory Council
Middle school marks a critical period in a young person’s development. During this time, a youth leaves the complete dependence of childhood to take their first steps on the road toward adulthood. A child’s “me”-centered perspective begins to broaden and eventually matures into an awareness that includes relationships with self, family, peers, community and environment. Along the path to maturity, youth experience the need to form tribes, mark themselves, and flirt with danger. Without guidance in this process, they will self-initiate — tribes become cliques and gangs, marking becomes a private culture of symbols through fashion and technology, experiencing danger becomes high risk behavior. Historically, healthy guidance occurred through rites of passages starting in preadolescence and culminating in initiation during the teen years. In the 21st century Bay Area, Stepping Stones offers today’s youth contemporary rites of passage, beginning with their transformative middle school years. The Coming of Age program prepares youth for positive experiences in high school, laying the foundation for them to ultimately cross the threshold of initiation into adulthood.
Details About Program
The best way to find out more about the Coming of Age program is to attend a parent informational evening. Dates for our upcoming parent info evenings can be found under Events. You may also click on the links below to find out more:
Stepping Stones is a 501(c)3 non-profit and supports the Coming of Age program through donations and monthly tuition fees. Please see the Tuition page for commonly asked questions regarding tuition costs.