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African American Graduates Celebrated at Rites of Passage Ceremony

African American Graduates Celebrated at Rites of Passage Ceremony

African American high school graduates from throughout San Diego County were celebrated this month with a special Rites of Passage ceremony hosted by the National College Resources Foundation (NCRF) in partnership with the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) and the Association of African American Educators (AAAE).

Group of educators and guests at Rites of Passage Ceremony

“Graduation is considered a rite of passage for students, and it’s important that we celebrate their accomplishments as they move to the next phase in their lives,” said San Diego County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Paul Gothold, who spoke at the event. “As we work to continue breaking down the barriers that negatively impact our African American students, it’s imperative that we also make space to share the joy of their success.”

More than 80 students participated in the ceremony, which included performances by Anjanae Hassell, Pink Polish Dance and Drill Team, and Spoken Word Artist Joe McClain. SDCOE's LaShae Sharp-Collins served as emcee. Scholarships were presented in the amount of $500 and $250. Each senior graduate received a kente cloth, which signifies they are ready for the next step in their life, and the 8th grade graduates received an African bracelet. 

"The Rites of Passage is an African tradition of celebrating the transition from one phase of life to the next and it's celebrated with the 'village,' or family,'” said Dr. Theresa Price, NCRF founder and CEO. “It is important because we want our young graduates to know that they are valued and they matter and we want to celebrate their accomplishments." 

Members of the Black community have shared that they wish to see their positive contributions and accomplishments celebrated by school systems. Feedback from SDCOE's Black Advisory Group was incorporated into the SDCOE’s Equity Blueprint for Action, which focuses on improving educational outcomes for African American, American Indian, and Latinx students. While the blueprint addresses the interconnected and specific needs of these communities, SDCOE also aims to support and celebrate other historically marginalized groups.

The Rites of Passage ceremony was held at the Bayview Baptist Church in San Diego. 

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