The Covid-19 pandemic left the Cheyenne River Youth Project reeling, just like everyone else in 2020. During those earliest weeks of lockdown, all we could do was prepare and distribute takeout meals; we missed our kids, and we knew we had to find a way to bring back youth programming in some form.

Our teen internship program was the first signature initiative to come back. In keeping with public health guidance, we could keep cohorts small, and we had plenty of space to ensure safe social distancing while the teens learned and gained hands-on experience in their chosen internship tracks.

Our CRYP staff also understood that the program was valuable for another reason. It gave our teens somewhere to go during the pandemic, a place where they could be with their peers and connect with positive role models and mentors. Thirteen-year-old Daven Roberts agrees.

“Back in 2020, I had nothing to do around the house,” he says. “I needed to start getting out, to start working. I saw my sister and cousin doing the internships at CRYP, and they seemed interesting. So I joined.”

As a young child, Daven participated in youth activities at The Main, our center for 4- to 12-year-olds. Our staff was delighted to welcome him to the Čhokáta Wičhóni (Center of Life) teen center, where he has completed internships in Art, Native Wellness, and Indigenous Foods & Cooking.

“The cooking internship was a good one,” Daven remembers. “I learned to make some sacred foods. I enjoyed getting to meet new people with all the internships, especially the staff. I love them. 

“The most challenging part of the internships was talking to new people,” he adds, “but I did it!” 

When he’s not attending 8th grade or working on an internship at CRYP, Daven says he likes playing football and gaming. He’s not quite sure yet what his future will hold, although he definitely wants to visit Japan someday. 

Daven says CRYP is very important to the Cheyenne River community — for the large-scale murals its RedCan invitational graffiti jam has splashed throughout Eagle Butte, and for the many opportunities it offers Cheyenne River’s young people.

“CRYP gets teens involved in things,” he says. “And once again, the staff are amazing. Shout-out to Wendell (Nezzie) and Jerica (Widow)!”