Since its inception more than thirty years ago the School of Lost Borders (SOLB) has offered youth rite-of-passage journeys that cultivate self-trust, responsibility, and a personal understanding of one’s unique place in society and the natural world.
In the beginning, Steven Foster and Meredith Little, the School’s founders, focused on initiations for youth, carrying a vision that meaningful rites of passage would be available to all people everywhere. Such initiatory practices may hold a key to help us as a culture—and a species—to move beyond the murky threshold of adolescence and to begin acting as true stewards of the land, mature lovers of life, and responsible adult members of the human community.
At SOLB we offer a simple form with these essential elements:
a) Nature-based: We hold the wilderness context as central to the initiatory experience. In nature there is an opportunity to know what it means to belong at the deepest level. A time of severance from our comforts and home life, a threshold experience of fasting alone, and a time focused on incorporating the lessons, knowing that the learning continues long after the threshold.
b) Community spirit: Participants gain an embodied sense of community, connection with their values and who they are, a strong heartful relationship with others in the group, and perhaps most importantly, a sense of profound belonging in the natural world. We feel ROP’s need to be community based. Our definition of community includes the land and family we are born into, the place where we live, and the community we are here to co-create, wherever we are. The sense of community, and the relations that unfold within groups of young adults and elders that gather around this ceremony, continue for a lifetime.
c) Co-ed ROP experiences for young men and women: We feel it is valuable in this modern day that genders together experience and witness the gifts and struggles carried by each and celebrate early on our common ground, differences and partnership. We also offer LGBT fasts, and respond to interest in ROPs solely for girls/young women and boys/young men.
d) An experience with peers set in a circle with elders and elders-in-training: This can include significant others, parents and family, as well as teachers, administrators, and other community members in a school context, complemented by School of Lost Borders guides and elders trained in this work.
There is value in going far from what is familiar, venturing into the wild inside and out, to discover the import of finding, making, and being at home wherever we are. We often have participants from all around the globe, many are learning what it is to be global citizens and members of the world community. Some return to their bioregions and deepen their relations there and some will create new communities. We strongly support local, regional, and culturally centered ceremonies and we focus as well on training guides to bring ROP for youth into their homelands. Our training programs take place throughout the year, and thousands thus far have been served. In this way the work of SOLB has become something of a cornerstone for modern rites of passage globally.
Since 2014 a small intergenerational team has been working to expand SOLB’s youth programs, increase training opportunities for youth guides, and support the growth of a network of guides and communities actively stewarding Rites of Passage with their young people. We are reaching out to a few schools in different regions in order to create ‘case studies’ of collaboration and define some helpful guidelines for others interested in the future.
With the continued re-awakening of this profound need for a community-based honoring of the transition from adolescence to adulthood, we are inspired more than ever to reach out to young people, to schools, institutions and community associations, here and abroad.
Collaborations, Case Studies and Allies:
Over the last 15(?) years long time SOLB staff member Larry Hobbs has developed a comprehensive community oriented Youth Fast Model for the Washington State 4H Youth, in conjunction with the University of WA. For more information on upcoming WA 4H trips, and trainings, as well as youth work resources and manuals that were created through the years of service, please contact Larry@lostborders.org
Dragonfly Transitions and Cascade Crest Transitions are Residential Program Centers in Oregon that have partnered with the school in creating Vision Fasts for residents near the end of their treatment or marking a particular milestone in their journey into healthy, independent adulthoold. Annual trips for students from both organizations began in 2014 and have begun to create promising momentum within the community. The school will continue to be involved in the development, and training of core staff members within these programs, as they grow and take root in the organizations, and find their own way. For more information on this case study, contact Petra@lostborders.org, Patrickd@dragonflytransitions.com or email@example.com.