The Cheyenne River Youth Project® has announced that it is accepting applications for its innovative “Growing into Wowachinyepi” program until Jan. 10, 2018 (read more to learn how to apply!). This initiative is designed to honor the Cheyenne River community’s youth leaders in a culturally relevant and respectful way, while also giving participants opportunities to continue their leadership journey.

Seven young people will earn a naming ceremony and honoring, a certificate of achievement, and a wopila (thank you) dinner in at CRYP’s Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) teen center in Eagle Butte. Of the seven, four will be selected to continue their journey through professional skills-building workshops, leadership training, holistic wellness trainings and an exciting all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. for additional leadership development.

“We designed this program in conjunction with the Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute, modeling it on their ‘Champions for Change’ program,” explained Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “We created it specifically for our Lakota youth, in keeping with the Lakota Nation’s traditional value system.”

The word wowachinyepi means “ one who the people can depend on.” The new CRYP program seeks to promote that distinctly Lakota view of leadership while honoring and recognizing young people who exemplify their community’s values.

“Our community has its own distinct outlook on what it means to be a leader, and what it means to achieve,” Garreau said. “Many of our young people are taking actions every day that reflect that outlook, and that demonstrate meaningful leadership, but they may not realize it. We want to honor them and provide support as they continue on their journey.”

To apply, young people ages 14-20 must submit their own stories of leadership and service. CRYP staff members, a committee comprising local residents and representatives from local organizations, and partners from across Indian Country will review the applicants’ stories and select the first seven individuals to participate. The same committee will choose the final four, who will continue in their leadership training and visit the U.S. capital.

Applicants are encouraged to be creative, as the program has more than 10 submission categories. CRYP welcomes written and video submissions that tell the young people’s personal stories; applicants also must include completed, signed application forms and three letters of recommendation, two from adults and one from a peer.

To obtain a paper application, visit the CRYP office at Cokata Wiconi. For a digital application, send an email to Jerica Widow at, or call the CRYP office at 605-964-8200. Paper copies also will be distributed to Cheyenne River schools and community programs.

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

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.

The Center for Native American Youth is a policy program of The Aspen Institute, located in Washington, DC. Created by former US Senator Byron Dorgan, CNAY believes Native American youth should lead full and healthy lives, have equal access to opportunity, and draw strength from their culture and one another. CNAY focuses on the resilience of Native youth and supports them through youth recognition, inspiration, and leadership; research, advocacy, and policy change; serving as a national resource exchange; and by developing strengths-based Native youth media opportunities. Learn more at