One of CRYP’s most beloved programs returned this fall, when the nonprofit youth organization held a six-week edition of its award-winning Main University. Recipient of a “Champion for Children” award from the South Dakota Coalition for Children, Main University is designed for 4- to 12-year-olds who attend The Main youth center; it was founded by a long-term volunteer in 2002. 

Main University took place every Tuesday for six weeks in September and October, from 4:30 to 5 p.m. at The Main. Students learned about a variety of subjects, including geography, science, math, reading, culture and history. Then, on Tuesday, Oct. 30, the eight children who completed the full program enjoyed a formal graduation celebration, complete with official caps and diplomas.

“The program went really well this fall,” says Anthony Potter, the CRYP youth programs assistant responsible for teaching the classes. “The kids really liked it. They said it was a fun experience, and they wished their school taught these subjects the way we did.”

“Main University gives our kids opportunities to take short courses that mimic those offered in a college setting, allowing them to explore subjects that may not be offered in school,” says Jerica Widow, CRYP’s youth programs director. “That’s at the heart of every program we offer here at CRYP: offering opportunities to which our kids might not otherwise have access. It’s so important for their growth and overall well-being.”

Widow notes that the young children who regularly participate in activities at The Main are familiar with Main University due to its longevity at the CRYP campus, and they eagerly look forward to new installments. They’re excited to learn about new subjects that interest them and earn the right to graduate with their peers, with proud family members watching.

“We want our kids to learn the importance of taking responsibility for their attendance, for their classroom work, and for any of their take-home projects,” Widow says. “We also want them to follow their passions and see how learning can be interesting and fun.”

Long time CRYP staff members have observed how much the children progress each time the youth project hosts Main University. They take an active role in their education, developing valuable life skills along the way.

“We see them embracing new subject matter, interacting with instructors and working together as a team,” Widow says, “and we know those skills will serve them well as they head to middle school, high school and beyond.”

To stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook (/LakotaYouth), Twitter (@LakotaYouth) and Instagram (@waniyetuwowapi).

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.