IRVINE — Fifteen high school boys were recognized Saturday for being the first "graduates" of the Rites of Passage class, the first leg of a four-year program that teaches African American cultural pride and tracks the education progress of the participants.
Conceived by the 100 Black Men of Orange County, Rites of Passage is part of the civic organization's Passport to the Future program, which seeks to build the self-esteem, academic excellence and work ethic of selected students throughout their high school years.
Passport to the Future was launched in January. During the Rites of Passage phase, the participants--all freshmen--were required to attend three-hour classes once a month. Discussions, led by black community and business leaders, focused on such topics as self-awareness, cultural history, leadership and social responsibility.
"We are very proud of these boys," said Ron Coley, president of the 100 Black Men. "One of the things we want to teach in this program is commitment, and by completing this part of the program, they show that they have it."
The second phase of Passport to the Future is the mentor program, in which each youth will be paired with a local African American professional who will act as his advisor on any pertinent issue for the school year. During their junior and senior years, the boys will be placed in business apprenticeship programs.
Once they have completed the four-year program, the participants will be awarded a "passport" of $1,000 to be applied to college or vocational training.
This year's Rites of Passage graduates are: Tustin High School students Marcel Hall, Jerome Dean Hurd-Stovall, Corey Moore, Michael Saulsberry; Irvine High's Matthew Louis Hardeman, Alex Hogan, Alex Hurston, Douglas Miller, Julian Dee Phaire, Chris Smith, Stanford Southall; University High's Chet L. Johnson, David Judd and Benjamin McDonald Jr.; and Adam Jenkins of Woodbridge High School.