My name is Destinee Cambium (pictured at right in the photo). I’m 24 years old, and I’m from Chicago, Illinois. I recently graduated with a bachelor’s degree in urban elementary education, and at the moment, I work as a private preschool teacher while I also pursue a master’s degree in special education. When I’m not teaching or in school, I love to travel and learn about different cultures.

I learned about the Cheyenne River Youth Project from my mother, who volunteered with CRYP in the past. At age 16, I decided to become a volunteer as well; I think CRYP does great work, and I wanted to be part of something special.

Since then, I’ve volunteered four times — approximately every other summer, for about a week at a time. One of my favorite tasks was working in the Winyan Toka Win Owózu (Leading Lady Garden). I loved it. It feels so satisfying to see all the plants in the ground, and you get to work with the earth. You also get really close with your team, because you’re all working together and talking.

Another favorite task was priming the walls for the RedCan invitational graffiti jam. Before you prime, you get to absorb all the beautiful artwork in CRYP’s Waniyetu Wowapi (Winter Count) Art Park. I really enjoyed that. Since I usually can’t make it to RedCan, it was a great opportunity to see all of these large, vibrant murals up close and in person.

I love being part of something bigger than myself — a cause that I believe does a lot of good in the world — and I think CRYP is both necessary and inspiring. It’s important to the Cheyenne River community because it provides internships for teens, giving them valuable opportunities to access financial resources and gain the skills they need for employment. And it offers young people a safe place to just go and be kids, whether they’re participating in Midnight Basketball or arts and crafts. 

CRYP also gives local families access to the supplies they need for their households, and through its arts and social enterprise initiatives, it provides opportunities for local artists and craftspeople to showcase their work for others to appreciate and even purchase. CRYP is an amazing asset to the community.

The reality of volunteering with CRYP was different than what I expected, because it’s not just about volunteering. The organization provides educational and cultural activities for volunteers, so you can learn about the Cheyenne River Lakota Nation and the children and families you will serve. I always leave with more knowledge.

Everyone is extremely welcoming, and I enjoy spending time here. I would recommend volunteering with CRYP to anyone and everyone — it’s a wonderful, one-of-a-kind experience that I have cherished since I was a teenager.

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