A grant will allow a newly formed partnership of nonprofits to develop a Rites of Passage program for Black youth in Louisville, a news release said.

The Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence has provided a $200,000 grant to three organizations — Bridge Kids International, Play Cousins Collective and Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest — to develop this program.

According to the release, the program will include immersive experiences in nature as part of nurturing a new generation of young Black men and women during a critical phase of development.

Play Cousins Collective Exec­utive Director Kristen Williams in the release said Rites of Passage honors the passing from childhood into adulthood with an emphasis on the associated roles and responsibilities.

“This program will provide tools for physical, social and emotional health while supporting a sense of pride, clarity and purpose,” Williams said. “... Our ultimate goal is to help adolescents realize their place as leaders in our community while improving health and increasing a sense of connectedness and responsibility.”

Bernheim’s Children at Play Network Director Claude Stephens said research points to the value of nature and play for social, emotional, physical and cognitive development.

“Bernheim will provide a destination for the immersive experiences in nature for adolescents in the Rites of Passage program as well as serve as the project convener and provide fiscal oversight,” Stephens said in the release.

He said this program “will provide a path for youth to actualize their hopes and dreams. The goal of each of these three organizations is not to give anyone anything, except the tools to get to where they want to go.”

Stacy Bailey-Ndiaye, BKI executive director, said she anticipates Black youth developing a stronger, positive ethnic/racial identity as an outcome of the program.

“As a result of youth being exposed to a culturally relevant curriculum, positive peer group, and committed role models, we expect youth participants to nurture a positive sense of self – as proud and powerful young adults of African heritage – which will lead to a range of positive outcomes,” she said in the release. “Furthermore, we believe there will be a unique benefit of engaging these youth in natural outdoor landscapes, such as Bernheim Arboretum and Research Forest. We expect young people to have an increased connection to, and appreciation for the natural environment.”

Clemson University’s REYSE Collaboratory for Race, Ethnicity, Youth and Social Justice will serve as evaluator for the program, the release said. The grant includes a planning and pilot phase in the first year, followed by a year of programming.

Additional service partners will be identified for participation in the program as it is developed, the release said.

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