CRYYP is pleased to announce that Jerri Ellen Thompson-LaPlante was promoted to the role of cafe manager this month. LaPlante, who has been working as a youth programs assistant for the 25-year-old, not-for-profit youth project, will immediately begin preparations for the January “soft opening” of CRYP’s new Keya Cafe.
In her new role, LaPlante will be responsible for all aspects of cafe operations, from finances, inventory and stocking to preparing meals, meal service and maintaining a high-quality, commercial-grade kitchen. She also will oversee cafe personnel, which likely will include area teens in their first formal job experience.
“When I saw that CRYP was looking for a cafe manager, I just knew it was the right job for me,” LaPlante said. “I’m so dedicated to this organization and to our community, and I have a real passion for educating people about nourishing foods and healthy eating habits. I’m so excited to help make our dream for the Keya Cafe a reality!”
An enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, LaPlante graduated from Cheyenne-Eagle Butte High School in 2001; during her high-school years, she worked as a cook and server at Eagle Butte’s much-loved Outrider Cafe. In 2002-03, she studied early childhood education at Si Tanka / Huron University, but starting a family put her post-secondary education on hold.
With young children to help support, LaPlante worked for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe’s Planning/Credit Department and at Video Adventure / Dollar Mart, then she relocated with her family to Mobridge, South Dakota, where she worked as a social service assistant and office automation clerk for the Aberdeen Area Youth Regional Treatment Center. While there, she also prepared food, served meals, maintained the center’s kitchen and earned Food Handler’s and Serve Safe certifications.
Returning to Eagle Butte, LaPlante next worked as a women’s advocate at the Sacred Heart Center from 2008 to 2011. In 2010-11, she also had a second job at CRYP, working as a youth programs assistant until complications with her fifth pregnancy forced her to take a break.
“Given the difficult pregnancy and the premature arrival of our daughter, Tomilane, I decided to take two years off,” LaPlante explained. “I wanted to focus on the health of my beautiful baby girl, and I also took the time to become active in meth awareness, prevention and education.”
LaPlante said she was thrilled to return to CRYP as a youth programs assistant earlier this year.
“I missed my time with the youth project, and I was so fortunate to be welcomed back,” she said. “It feels great to be working with the community again, and to be working closely with youth.”
LaPlante is dedicated to her husband, William Casey LaPlante, their five children and the rest of their extended family. She enjoys beading, horseback riding, boating, fishing, camping, attending powwows, attending extracurricular school activities, arranging family gatherings, traveling, gardening and cooking.
She also has been enjoying CRYP’s 2-acre, naturally grown Winyan Toka Win garden, learning about the different types of pesticide-free produce grown on site as well as learning how to can and process foods. LaPlante said the entire process has been inspirational.
“All of this learning really has inspired me to pursue my passions for devising healthy menus and educating community members of all ages about new foods, different preparation techniques and healthy eating habits. I’m really looking forward to building a thriving business with the Keya Cafe, and continuing to serve the Cheyenne River community.”
More information about the Keya Cafe’s soft opening in January, initial menu offerings and hours will be available in the coming weeks.
To learn more about the Cheyenne River Youth Project and its programs, and for information about making donations and volunteering, call (605) 964-8200 or visit www.lakotayouth.org. And, to stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.