On Monday, September 28, the Cheyenne River Youth Project® in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, is launching its fall semester of Main University, one of the not-for-profit youth organization’s most popular and enduring programs. Recipient of a “Champion for Children” award from the South Dakota Coalition for Children, Main University is designed for 4- to 12-year-olds who attend The Main youth center; it was founded by former long-term volunteer Tracie Farrell in 2002.

Main University allows participants to take short courses that mimic those offered in a college setting, giving Cheyenne River children a chance to study subjects that may not be offered in school. This fall, the CRYP staff has created lesson plans for four hourlong courses: Baking, Collage, Beadwork, and Stenciling & Painting.

In Baking, students will learn all about cooking safety, and they will practice measuring ingredients. Recipes include Peanutty Graham, No-Bake Cookies, Peanut Cookies, and Halloween Popcorn Pumpkins.

In Collage, the children will learn how to plan their own collage projects, from finding the right pictures and colors to choosing mediums. They also will discuss the meanings and stories expressed through collage and other art forms, exploring what they want to say with their projects.

In Beadwork, students will learn daisy chains, loomwork and flat stitching. And in Stenciling & Painting, they’ll work with watercolors, simple stenciling and aerosol, and acrylic painting. Tammy Eagle Hunter, CRYP’s youth programs director and an accomplished artist in her own right, will teach Stenciling & Painting.

“Having the ability to express yourself is incredibly powerful,” Eagle Hunter said. “Through art, our children learn to tell their stories, share their life experiences and express their own unique identities in a positive, healthy way. I love art in all its forms, and I’m passionate about its ability to transform lives — and to heal, which is so important in our reservation communities. It’s such a privilege to be able to teach these skills and share an artistic journey with our kids through Main University.”

Each Main University course is assigned its own weekday. During the fall semester, courses will be held every Monday through Thursday at 5 p.m. In October, students will attended classes until October 22; The Main will be closed to youth on October 26-31 so staff and volunteers can prepare for the annual Haunted House.

Classes will resume on Monday, November 2, and this year’s graduation ceremony is tentatively scheduled for Monday, November 30. Children must attend 16 or more classes to graduate.

“If you can’t join us right away on the September 28 start date, don’t worry,” Eagle Hunter said. “You’ll still have time to participate. Just join us as soon as you can, and make sure to attend 16 classes. Then you can take part in our graduation ceremony and celebration.”

Eagle Hunter noted that the young children who participate in activities at The Main eagerly look forward to Main University in fall and spring. They are excited to choose which courses to take based on their interests; and, as Eagle Hunter observed, that is exactly how higher education works.

“We want our kids to learn the importance of taking responsibility for their attendance, for their classroom work, and for any of their take-home projects,” she said. “We also want them to follow their passions and see how learning can be interesting and fun. It’s exciting for us as a staff, because we see how much our kids progress each semester, and it’s wonderful to see them taking an active role in their education — and developing valuable life skills, such as embracing new subject matter, interacting with instructors, and working together as a team.”

To stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook (/LakotaYouth), Twitter (@LakotaYouth) and Instagram (@waniyetuwowapi).

The Cheyenne River Youth Project, founded in 1988, is a grassroots, not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing the youth of the Cheyenne River reservation with access to a vibrant and secure future through a wide variety of culturally sensitive and enduring programs, projects and facilities that ensure strong, self-sufficient families and communities.