When the movie “Wonder Woman’ premiered last year, girls of all ages promptly made the title character their new hero. Most critics applauded the movie as well, with USA Today noting, “(Diana) didn’t grow up in a world that told her she couldn’t do things because she was a woman. She simply does what she thinks is right… and it’s so uplifting to see her do it.”
This resonated with the staff at the Cheyenne River Youth Project, which announced today that the theme of its 2018 Passion for Fashion event—scheduled for March 10 at the Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) teen center—will be “Empower Your Inner Lakota Wonder Woman.” At the heart of this theme is the critical notion that each young woman can lean on her Lakota values and heritage to, as Gal Gadot’s Diana put it, “fight for the world I know can be.”
At first, Passion for Fashion might seem to focus primarily on providing the dresses, shoes, jewelry and other accessories the teens need for their high school prom. Underneath the surface, however, this long-running program is about so much more.
“For decades, our role in this community has been to provide opportunities for our kids, and to plant seeds for a more secure and vibrant future,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “That’s the guiding principle for every program we create. In the case of Passion for Fashion, not only do we want our girls to share in the joy and excitement all American teens experience as they prepare for the prom, we also want to provide a meaningful opportunity to learn from other Lakota women, enjoy intergenerational bonding, and find personal empowerment through positive body image, improved self-confidence, and the knowledge that one person absolutely can do her part to create a stronger community—and a better world.”
Youth Programs Director Jerica Widow agreed. “Ours is an incredibly rich culture,” she said. “Passion for Fashion gives us a chance to provide important mentorship to our young women, to help strengthen the connection they have to their Lakota heritage, and to celebrate the traditional values that will serve them well all their lives. Not only as individuals, but as members of their tiospaye and their larger communities.”
At Passion for Fashion, Cheyenne River’s teens will take part in icebreaking activities and a sit-down luncheon in the Keya (Turtle) Cafe; hear keynote speakers; receive manicures, pedicures, makeovers and hair styling; find their dream dresses, shoes and accessories; and celebrate their transformed selves on a formal catwalk. They’ll make memories and new friendships, and they’ll support each other as they work through difficult issues such as bullying, low self-esteem and poor body image.
“We encourage our young women to bring their mothers, grandmothers, aunties, sisters and cousins to Passion for Fashion,” Garreau said. “This is a major life experience, and each year, we witness the impact it has on these girls to share that experience with their loved ones. We also see how the girls quickly find common ground.”
All high-school girls on the Cheyenne River reservation receive personalized invitations to Passion for Fashion, and junior-high girls are welcome to attend as well. CRYP also welcomes teens from the nearby Standing Rock reservation, and from border towns such as Faith, South Dakota.
To support its 2018 Passion for Fashion event, CRYP has launched its annual Dress Drive. The nonprofit youth organization needs new and gently used formal dresses in sizes 4 to 26, especially in sizes 16 to 26. It also needs shoes in all sizes, especially in sizes 9 to 12.
CRYP also asks for jewelry and hair accessories; makeup and bath sets; gift cards and cash donations. Staff and volunteers will take any contributed funds and make additional purchases based on need.
For details regarding how you can support CRYP’s Passion for Fashion program, click here. And to learn more about the program, check out this video.
And, 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.