The classical Greek philosopher Plato once wrote, “The part can never be well unless the whole is well.” The staff at the Cheyenne River Youth Project® understands this concept better than most; to make a real, lasting difference on South Dakota’s remote Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, the 27-year-old, not-for-profit youth organization is dedicated to fostering holistic wellness among youth.

That means CRYP does more than provide a safe, positive place to play, study and socialize with friends. It also prepares nutritious snacks and meals using foods grown organically in CRYP’s 2-acre Winyan Toka Win (Leading Lady) garden. It encourages healthy self-expression through teen arts internships and the free, public Waniyetu Wowapi (Winter Count) Art Park. It teaches job and life skills through a variety of additional internships, workshops and classes. And, it devotes a large percentage of its time and energy to physical fitness.

In 2015, teens who attend the Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) teen center had the opportunity to participate in circuit training, Midnight Basketball, “open run” basketball games, basketball obstacle courses, Walking Club and much more. In the year to come, CRYP will continue to demonstrate its ongoing commitment to wellness through a basketball tournament for grades six, seven and eight; a lacrosse program; strength training, cardio training and continued circuit training in the Cokata Wiconi fitness center; Walking Club; and regular basketball programming and fitness challenges.

According to Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director, Cheyenne River’s teens instinctively understand the importance of wellness.

“They’re drawn to it,” she said. “When we were developing our plans for Cokata Wiconi 10 years ago, we approached our teens and asked them what they wanted to see in their teen center. They specifically asked for a regulation-sized gymnasium, a fitness center, a dance studio… they were eager to have dedicated places for playing ball, working out and learning new skills.”

Recent wellness programming has been made possible in part through a grant from the N7 Fund, which is committed to inspiring and enabling sports participation among Native American populations.

“We couldn’t continue to offer our wellness programs and initiatives without the support of key partners and generous individuals around the country, and we certainly couldn’t continue to expand our offerings, which is so important to our core mission in our community,” Garreau said. “In a way, we’re developing a coalition of like-minded people who see physical fitness is a critical piece of true holistic wellness.

“As they pursue their fitness goals, our teens are developing leadership skills, improving their self-confidence and positive body image, and unleashing their creativity in unexpected ways,” she explained. “They’re also learning effective teamwork, which goes such a long way toward combating bullying issues, and they’re becoming a force for meaningful change in the community.”

To stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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.

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