Due to the ongoing popularity of its Wellness Wednesdays among local youth, the Cheyenne River Youth Project has added a new installment to that program as well as an all-new initiative on Thursdays. Wellness Wednesdays: Weightlifting will start on Feb. 6 in the Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) fitness center, and Alternative Sport Thursdays: Dodgeball kicked off on Jan. 31 in the Cokata Wiconi gymnasium.
Open free to 13- to 18-year-olds, these wellness programs give young people the opportunity to explore different types of fitness activities. Currently, while the teens work out on the fitness equipment under the direction of youth programs assistants Wendell Nezzie II and Anthony Potter, CRYP also hosts 4- to 12-year-olds for Wellness Wednesdays: Gymnastics in the gymnasium.
Nezzie and Potter turn the gym over to the teens the next day for Alternative Sport Thursdays. Dodgeball will run through February; March is volleyball, April is soccer, May is kickball and June is badminton.
“We actually started dodgeball a week early, because the kids were so excited,” says Jerica Widow, CRYP’s youth programs director. “During the winter months, young people are indoors far too much. We want to give them a variety of ways to engage in physical activity while they’re also exploring their interests.”
The youth project launched Wellness Wednesdays last fall, with courses in gymnastics, dance and circuit training. The gymnastics course was so popular among the younger children, CRYP staff decided to bring it back after the holidays. They added weightlifting in February so the teens would have an option on Wednesdays as well.
“As we discussed the teens’ needs, we realized we had the resources to offer additional sports,” Widow explains. “So we created Alternative Sport Thursdays, and so far, we’ve seen a lot of enthusiasm for the activities on the schedule.”
Both wellness programs—made possible with the support of the Diabetes Action Research and Education Foundation and Nike’s N7 Fund—also offer new opportunities for CRYP’s Native Wellness interns, who help design all wellness-related initiatives. They also serve as mentors, both for their peers and for the younger children who attend The Main youth center next door.
“It’s a privilege to see our interns’ leadership skills grow as they interact with youth of all ages in the programs they’ve helped create and execute,” says Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “It’s particularly wonderful to see them engage with the younger kids. Not only are they serving as powerful role models, they’re helping introduce the littles to Cokata Wiconi, where they will transition at the age of 13.”
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.