Wendell Nezzie is a valuable member of the Cheyenne River Youth Project’s youth programming staff. He also is a CRYP alumnus.
Wendell grew up in a small community called Wicagakapi Sa, or Red Scaffold, in the western part of South Dakota’s remote Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. He became a regular at CRYP’s Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) teen center as a high school freshman.
“It was the only place I could go to play basketball with my friends,” he says. “It was such a great place, such a safe environment to be in. I participated in the wellness program and open gym, I came to Midnight Basketball, and I worked with youth in the summertime. I decided I wanted to join the staff when I saw all the great things they were doing for the kids and the community.”
Wendell became a youth programs assistant in fall 2014. He is focused on working with teens, building relationships with them, and helping to keep the facilities in good condition so they remain clean, safe, positive places for children to be.
While the 1.5-hour drive to and from work each day does present its challenges, he says he loves coming to work and collaborating with his colleagues.
“It’s a great environment, and it’s awesome to be surrounded by people who enjoy helping the children and families in our communities,” he says. “We motivate each other to work hard so our communities will be better, and stronger.
“I like playing basketball with the teens and helping them keep physically active, stay in shape and be healthy,” he continues. “I’m older now, and it’s nice to be able to motivate younger kids. I want to continue growing as a person who can make a positive contribution to my community.”