At the Cheyenne River Youth Project, we’ve worked hard over the years to develop a programming mix that allows us to reach as many young people as we can, and then develop deeper, more meaningful relationships with particular individuals over time. For example, we created Midnight Basketball in 1996 so area teens would have a safe place to play ball and hang out with friends on Friday nights—some weekends, we’ll see more than 100 kids come through our doors.
We might not have the chance to get to know each of those 100-plus children personally through the basketball program. Sometimes, however, a passion for basketball turns into a passion for CRYP, and we have an opportunity to make a lasting difference in that child’s life.
That’s what happened with a young woman named Sunni Dupris, who first came to our Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) teen center to play basketball. That turned into so much more.
“The art classes were appealing to me,” Sunni remembers. “It sounded fun to learn about the different types of mediums in the art internship.”
Sunni became an art intern in August 2016. Since then, she has completed the sustainable agriculture, social enterprise and wellness internships as well.
“I enjoy the internships,” she says. “I met new friends, and it feels like I’m working in a real job.”
While she admits that pulling weeds in the 2-acre Winyan Toka Win (Leading Lady) garden was perhaps the most challenging task, she welcomed the opportunities—such as the CPR training—that gave her new job and life skills. She says she’s grateful to the nonprofit youth project for what it has given her.
“It’s so welcoming, and its staff members are kind,” she says. “CRYP is important, because it gives teens more opportunities than any other business in the Cheyenne River community.”
The admiration and affection are mutual. “Sunni is a really great young lady,” says Tammy Granados, CRYP’s youth programs director. “She’s friendly, she participates, and she gets along well at Cokata Wiconi. She’s good stuff.”
When she’s not busy at the CRYP campus, Sunni enjoys running and basketball, and she’s interested in history and art at Cheyenne-Eagle Butte High School.
“Other hobbies of mine would be beading, playing with my dogs, and spending time with my family,” she adds.
While she’s not sure what career path is best at this point, Sunni says she does plan to go to college. And to travel, preferably to places with warmer year-round climates.
“I want to visit Hawaii,” she reports. “And, I want to live in the South.”