In the four-plus years since we launched our teen internship program, we’ve seen three types of participants: teens who complete one or two internships in different tracks, teens who complete all four tracks, and teens who fall in love with one particular internship and keep returning to it. Xander Red Horse falls into that last category.

The teen has participated regularly in the Sustainable Agriculture, or “garden,” internship since the internship program’s early days. He started coming to CRYP at age 12, drawn by the opportunity to play basketball in the Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) teen center’s full-size gymnasium was a huge draw. Then he discovered the internship program.

“My mother actually told me about the summer youth internship,” Xander recalls. “She wanted me to do it because it would teach me a lot. I really like it. I’ve been doing it for almost four years now.”

In each Sustainable Agriculture internship, the teens learn to plant, maintain and harvest CRYP’s 2.5-acre, organic Winyan Toka Win (Leading Lady) Garden and process food in Cokata Wiconi’s commercial kitchen. They also spend time in the classroom.

“I like when we have speakers that teach us about our Lakota ways,” Xander says, adding that he also appreciates his CPR training, which is part of all four teen internship tracks (the others are Social Enterprise, Wellness and Art).

“CPR training really helps with anyone’s future, because you never know when you’re going to need it,” he observes.

The internships have their challenges. For Xander, it’s the hard work that a large garden requires. As he says, “Pulling weeds for awhile drains your energy fast!”

CRYP has become an important part of the teenager’s life, and Xander says he’s grateful for the youth project’s role in the Cheyenne River community.

“If CRYP weren’t here, I wouldn’t have the opportunities that I have going for me now,” he reflects. “They do a lot for our community, and it’s awesome. I like the (Waniyetu Wowapi, or Winter Count) Art Park, and I like the garden. Especially in the summer, when everything’s sprouting.”

When Xander isn’t busy in the garden, the kitchen or Cokata Wiconi’s classroom, he enjoys playing drums and drawing. And he still loves basketball.
“If I ever have a problem, or something I need to think about, I go play basketball,” he explains.

Xander plans to major in physical therapy in college. After that, he wants to “travel somewhere big, get a job, and do what I love.”