For the first time, we’re inducting a young person from The Main youth center into our CRYP Hall of Fame. His name is Thomas Lucero. This bright, curious 11-year-old started coming to The Main last fall.
Thomas says he enjoys The Main’s playground and the full-size gymnasium at the next-door Cokata Wiconi (“Center of Life”) teen center, but the real draw has been Main University. He participated twice — and he has been named valedictorian twice.
One of CRYP’s most popular and enduring programs, Main University was founded by long-term volunteer Tracie Farrell in 2002, and it is the recipient of a “Champion for Children” award from the South Dakota Coalition for Children. It’s designed for the 4- to 12-year-olds who attend The Main, and CRYP offers both fall and spring sessions.
In this special program, staff members and volunteers provide short courses that mimic those offered in a college setting. The courses give Cheyenne River children a chance to study subjects that may not be offered in school. Each Main University course is assigned its own weekday. Classes are held at 5-6 p.m. and 7-8 p.m. at The Main, Monday through Friday, and the children must attend 16 or more classes to graduate.
Thomas says he definitely has had favorite classes at Main University.
“In pottery, you got to take your stuff home when you were done,” he remembers. “When Joseph did Walking Club (officially called ‘Get Moving’), you got a prize if you did 4 miles. And in Cori’s ‘Fish’ class, you got cool little pictures of fish!”
He also really loved poetry.
“I’m actually pretty good at it,” he says. “And it’s just fun.”
The biggest surprise for Thomas was discovering that he was valedictorian of his Main University class. He says he didn’t even know there was a valedictorian, and receiving this honor made graduation day extra special — both times.
“We got called, all the Main University participants, and they gave us a prize,” he recalls. “We got a prize depending on how many classes we took, and then there was a little podium where I gave a speech.”
Tammy Eagle Hunter, CRYP’s youth programs director, remembers Thomas’s graduation speech at the end of Main University’s fall semester.
“Thomas gave a speech about one of his favorite classes, which was ‘Smoothies 101,’” she says. “We were thrilled by his enthusiasm, since we designed the class to encourage healthy food choices.”
While Thomas isn’t exactly sure where he might like to go to college, he’s clear about the career path he’d like to pursue.
“I want to become a marine biologist one day,” he shares. “That’s why I did Cori’s class, actually.”
We’re excited to see Thomas back in Main University when the fall semester kicks off on Monday, September 28, and it’s our great honor to support him as he pursues his dreams.