Seventh and eighth graders in AEU’s Coming of Age (CoA) program engage in a broader kind of interaction with the world around them, one designed to gently carry them from childhood into adulthood while continuing their development as powerfully ethical people. For adolescents around the world, this is a time in life when a person’s social world changes and they naturally begin to examine their place in it.
To reflect this new level of engagement, AEU’s CoA program uses education, dialogue, ritual, self-exploration, and personal expression; to help young people bring out their best. Teens develop caring relationships; social responsibility; and learn through service how to be an effective initiator and organizer of social change. They are also introduced to the religious traditions of our neighbors, and invited to contemplate how those belief systems help people grapple with the same issues and questions that all humans encounter. Many Societies facilitate that exploration through a series of visits to other religious communities and places of worship.
Because Ethical Culture is grounded in shared values and action rather than a set of assumed beliefs, each person is trusted to choose his or her own path. Our hope is that we can further develop the sense of self that will anchor young teens as they become happy, productive, and independent adults. Some programs focus on parent-teen communication, while others may pair a mentor with the teen to provide a supportive, non-parent adult relationship, or have an advisor for a class of teens.
Some Societies organize solo-retreats on mountaintops and others prepare teens for community leadership at their local Society. In most Societies, the CoA class concludes with a personalized graduation ceremony in which the students share their work and their evolving understandings about what one needs to do to lead a meaningful life. Teens are then encouraged to stay connected with their Society and the Ethical Culture Movement by joining a youth program, assisting with children’s programs, and/or attending Sunday Platforms.
For details of the Coming of Age program in your area, contact your local Ethical Society.
Here are some helpful Coming of Age resources:
Ethical Society of St Louis Coming of Age, Contact Nick Cowan
Washington Ethical Society Coming of Age, Contact Mike Kravitz
New York Society for Ethical Society Coming of Age, Contact Audrey Kindred