The Value of Council: Sixth and Seventh Grade Students Honor Elder Classmates with Rite of Passage Preparations 

On Wednesday, Mount Madonna School (MMS) sixth and seventh grade students – the only middle and high school students on campus this week – spent a few morning hours helping with preparations for the upcoming eighth grade Rite of Passage (ROP). Mount Madonna eighth through eleventh grades were away on school learning journeys (Boston, Yosemite, Catalina Island and Washington, D.C., while high school seniors were engaged in college tours near and far.

“It was a special community service opportunity that allowed students to contribute to an MMS tradition that they too will have the chance to experience in their eighth grade year,” commented Dean of Students Blythe Collier (‘12).

Led by Dayanand Diffenbaugh, a founding member of Mount Madonna Center, an MMS alumni parent (Noah, ‘92 and PK, ‘95), and former World Religions teacher, who has long been involved as a lead on the Rite of Passage, students began in a circle in the middle school quad where they learned about Mount Madonna’s ROP tradition and talked about supporting the eighth grade on their upcoming journey.

Students also learned about the value of council. A connection was made to a scene from the school’s stage production of “Ramayana!” in which the Nishada tribe elders ask for council and the whole tribe huddles together to make a decision that includes the perspectives of each member. Councils emphasize the importance of making sure every voice is valued and heard. A key aspect of the MMS Rite of Passage is an eighth grade council circle around the campfire, in which students use a council stick to take turns sharing, listening and reflecting. 

Students collected and prepared firewood and hiked down to the Big Swing to deliver wood to the Rite of Passage campground area. At this site, some students created a council stick for the eighth grade students to use, while others helped set up the council space and learned how to prepare a campfire. 

“There was even time to play on the swing, enjoy the sun, and connect with the nature around us,” said Collier. “We closed the experience with a reflective council circle that was similar to one that might occur on Rite of Passage.” 


Contact: Leigh Ann Clifton, director of marketing & communications,

Nestled among the redwoods on 375 acres, Mount Madonna School (MMS) is a diverse learning community dedicated to creative, intellectual, and ethical growth. MMS supports its students in becoming caring, self-aware, discerning and articulate individuals; and believes a fulfilling life includes personal accomplishments, meaningful relationships and service to society. The CAIS and WASC accredited program emphasizes academic excellence, creative self-expression and positive character development. Located on Summit Road between Gilroy and Watsonville. Founded in 1979.