Xzanndria Norris, 14, has been participating in programs and activities at CRYP since she was a little girl. She says she loves how CRYP provides two centers that are geared toward young people, The Main youth center for 4- to 12-year-olds and the Cokata Wiconi (“Center of Life”) teen center, and she definitely has some favorite programs.

“The new art internship program and Midnight Basketball are two of my favorite programs,” Xzanndria says. “Both have allowed me to gain experience and become better.”

The teen also acknowledges the important role CRYP staff members have played through the years.

“They’re very encouraging, and they’ve helped me become more confident in trying new things,” she explained. “CRYP is important to our whole community, because they give kids an outlet to keep them safe and out of trouble in a structured environment.”

College is very much on Xzanndria’s mind these days, although she isn’t quite sure what she’d like to study. For now, her attention is on school, exercise — particularly running with the Cheyenne-Eagle Butte High School cross country team — and socializing with friends, online and in person.

“It’s been such a privilege watching Zan grow up,” says Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “She has adopted me as her Auntie Julie, and she tells me she loves me, which is so very endearing. Her energy and smile are just adorable, and she works so hard. She’s talented, funny, sweet and loving, and so smart. Just watching her grow as an art intern has been remarkable.”

Peyton Scott Russell, the acclaimed Minneapolis-based artist who serves as lead instructor in CRYP’s art internship program, agreed. Xzanndria graduated with the youth project’s first cohort of art interns this past July.

“By nature, she challenges authority, and in the long run, that’s a great trait,” he says. “She isn’t afraid to challenge the status quo, and that quality could take her far. She definitely challenged me, and I pushed back to help her be the best that she can be. She has a really great eye for color and can see contrasting colors. Just a beautiful eye for color.”

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