This month, we’re featuring a young man who is an alumnus of The Main youth center and the Cokata Wiconi (“Center of Life”) teen center. His name is Joseph White Eyes, and we are proud to say that he is a member of our staff.

An enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Joseph grew up in Eagle Butte on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, and he graduated from Cheyenne-Eagle Butte High School in spring 2013. As a high school student, he volunteered at CRYP through a variety of teen internship and leadership programs, including the Junior Volunteer program, Youth Leaders in Service, Power of Four, and Community Volunteering.

“I grew up with the Cheyenne River Youth Project, starting as a six- or seven-year-old boy,” Joseph says. “I guess you can say I never left. This organization gave me so much when I was so little, and now I feel it’s my time to do my part and give back.

“As a young person, as a young volunteer, one of the reasons I wanted to be at CRYP was because it was a way for me be at home and serve my people,” he continues. “I understand the kids and their challenges. Sometimes it’s hard to overcome those challenges, but I was able to, and I want to be able to help others.”

Now 20 years old and in his second year of working as a youth programs assistant, Joseph says he enjoys the work environment at the organization’s East Lincoln Street campus, and he appreciates the experiences he gains through CRYP.

“Not many other places offer the sort of experiences I get here,” he observes. “I enjoy working with the young people here, and I know that the impact I have on them now directly impacts our future.”

Joseph is a graduate of Gear Up, and he worked for Gear Up Summer 2013. He also is a cofounder of the young adults’ One Mind Youth Council. He says he works to promote a better world and seeks to be a protector of Mother Earth. That’s not being an “activist,” he advises. “Protecting the environment is something we all should be doing.”