On Wednesday, April 6, the Cheyenne River Youth Project® welcomed its spring cohort of teen wellness interns, who will spend the month focusing on how to nurture healthy minds and bodies. These teen internships are a critical component of CRYP’s ongoing holistic wellness initiatives, which incorporate physical fitness, nutrition, diabetes prevention, healthy lifestyle choices and, perhaps most importantly, Lakota values and traditions.

“Our Lakota culture is a critical piece of our wholeness,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “Strengthening the connection our kids have to their traditional values and native wisdom builds an enduring foundation for lasting holistic wellness, for themselves and for our community.”

This April wellness interns are: Jacine Carter, 18; Ladonna Chasing Hawk, 14; Derreck Eagle, 16; Alexis Fiddler, 13; Randi Little Star, 14; Lucia Lone Eagle, 14; Marckis Red Dog, 13; Dessa Scares the Hawk, 13; and Jaymalee Turning Heart, 15. Through their four-week internships, the nine teens will participate in classes, special trainings, youth mentorship and planning special events. The internships will last until the end of the month, and those teens who have completed 60 hours by April 30 will earn stipends of $500.

“We’re having classes about nutrition, which will teach the interns about healthy foods, how to prepare them, what nutritious foods can do for their bodies, and what junk foods do to their bodies,” said Tammy Eagle Hunter, CRYP’s youth programs director. “ They’re also taking part in various fitness activities, learning more about how different muscle relationships work.”

In addition, the teens will attend trainings in Native Wellness, Traditional Values, Historical Trauma, Healthy Communication, Healthy Relationships, Healthy Sexuality, Traditional Leadership, Decision Making, Job Skills, Financial Aid and Visions for the Future. These trainings will prepare the young people for active youth mentorship, according to Eagle Hunter.

“We’re preparing them to lead group physical activities with the 4- to 12-year-olds at The Main youth center, and to serve as peer mentors at the Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) teen center,” she explained.

The teens also also are working toward earning Customer Service, CPR, Financial Literacy and Food Handler’s certifications.

“Our youth project provides so much more than a safe, positive place to play, study and socialize with friends,” Eagle Hunter noted of CRYP’s large Eagle Butte campus. “Through our internships, we’re hoping to provide our teens with job and life skills that will last a lifetime — and that will help provide access to the vibrant, more secure future our kids so richly deserve.”

As part of the wellness internship program, the teens will implement three community events: the Color Run on April 16, a Cooking with Commodities class on April 20, and the Community Fitness Challenge on April 23.

“They’re responsible for all the planning and execution, which will teach them both organizational and people skills,” Eagle Hunter said.

“We’re having so much fun with this internship,” she added. “The kids are really engaged.”

Not only are the interns keeping a daily journal to record the new information they’re learning and document the activities they’re participating in, they’re keeping a food journal so they can examine the types of food they eat on a regular basis. Eagle Hunter observed that the exercise demonstrates how food is medicine for the body, and if young people make healthy food choices, they’ll see positive results.

“Each intern has pledged to make one healthy change in his or her life,” she said, “whether it’s no longer drinking soda or committing to exercising three times per week. We’re all excited to see how the month unfolds.”

CRYP’s wellness programming is made possible in part by grant support from the NB3 Foundation, the N7 Fund, Diabetes Action and Research (DARE) and the Wellmark Foundation. These organizations are making it possible for the youth project to continue pursuing culturally sensitive, sustainable youth wellness programming on the Cheyenne River reservation. 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.