The Cheyenne River Youth Project announced today that it will host its annual “Thanks for Kids” dinner for the community on Friday, Nov. 17. Scheduled for 4-6 p.m., this free public event will include a hearty autumn feast, children’s activities, and a very special honoring to commemorate the 10th anniversary of CRYP’s groundbreaking teen internship program.
The honoring will recognize all current and former interns at CRYP, which is celebrating its own 35th anniversary this year. Staff also will share a slideshow with the community that documents the internship program’s journey from a small pilot project to a foundational programming initiative.
“In 2013, we graduated 11 interns in our first internship track, which focused on our Winyan Toka Win (Leading Lady) Garden and Native food sovereignty,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “In the decade since then, we have added five additional internship tracks, distributed more than $1 million in stipends, and graduated nearly 2,000 interns ages 13 to 18, with nearly 900 in the art internship track alone.”
The internship program fundamentally changed programming at CRYP’s Čhokáta Wičhóni (Center of Life) teen center. It paved the way for advanced leadership opportunities such as Growing Into Wowachinyepi, Lakota Art Fellowship, Youth Advisory Council, and Programs Assistant Trainee Program.
“We are investing in our young people so we can grow our Lakota workforce in a culturally relevant way,” Garreau explained. “Through our internships and advanced leadership programs, our youth learn the job and life skills necessary to be a good employee and also a good Lakota relative. They have access to the resources, opportunities and guidance they need to build a future in which they will thrive, on every level.”
This year’s “Thanks for Kids” dinner will incorporate ham, turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, fruit salad, corn, squash soup, cranberries, green bean casserole, baked macaroni and cheese, pies, cake and a relish tray. In addition to the teen interns’ honoring, family activities during the evening also will include a coloring table, fishing table and cake walk for younger children.
“We’re looking forward to sharing this special evening with our Cheyenne River family, friends and neighbors,” Garreau said. “This year’s gathering is an important one, as we come together to celebrate and lift up our teens and young adults.”
Ten years ago, Garreau said she hoped the fledgling internship program would encourage teens to “develop a strong work ethic and take on a valuable leadership role at the Čhokáta Wičhóni teen center.” Today, she said she cannot quite believe how far the youth project — and the kids — have come.
“When we started this, we had no idea that it would take on a life of its own,” she reflected. “Teen internships are essential to our mission now. They’re a fundamental part of who we are at CRYP. And the kids amaze us every single day. Their generation is going to make a real difference in this world, and we are so proud of them.”
To learn more about the Cheyenne River Youth Project and its programs, and for information about making donations and volunteering, call (605) 964-8200 or visit www.lakotayouth.org. And, to stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
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.