With the recent arrival of Covid-19 on South Dakota’s remote Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, the Cheyenne River Youth Project has continued to adapt its programming and facilities to meet the challenges of the ongoing public health crisis. Not only is the nonprofit youth organization pursuing remote learning opportunities for its teens, it also has transformed its gymnasium into a massive learning space.

According to Julie Garreau, executive director, the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation community’s unique needs are the driving force for the CRYP team.

“Too many of our children don’t have access to personal devices like smartphones and tables, and in such a rural area, a significant percentage also lack access to reliable Internet service,” Garreau explained. “We’re working hard to provide the resources they need to pursue remote learning, and we’re also finding ways to continue serving them on site.”

To that end, CRYP installed a new Internet line, set up socially distanced work stations in its Cokata Wiconi gymnasium, and ensured it would have adequate amounts of cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, and masks. Then it invited young people back to Cokata Wiconi in limited numbers, adhering to all necessary health and safety guidelines. 

“Of course we had to adapt our internship programming to reflect this new reality, but it was vital that we find a way to continue engaging with them on a daily basis,” Garreau said. “They rely on us, and we’re going to make sure that we’re here for them.

“We want to reassure our community that the kids’ health and safety are our utmost concern, because they are so precious to us,” she continued. “We would never put them in jeopardy. We are taking every possible precaution, while ensuring they have the resources they need and learning can continue.”

CRYP is asking for support as it ramps up its Covid-era programming capabilities. In particular, the organization hopes to add two large-screen TVs to the learning space, and it would like to make an additional 10 Chromebooks — Acer series 12 and up — available for use. Interested supporters can make contributions here through Square, select “Cokata Wiconi Teen Center,” and then write “Chromebook” or “Screens” in the comments box. 

To learn more about the Cheyenne River Youth Project and its programs, and for information about making donations and volunteering, call (605) 964-8200. And, to stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook (/LakotaYouth), Twitter (@LakotaYouth) and Instagram (@lakotayouth and @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.