Basketball is a big deal on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation in South Dakota. Lakota youth have a great passion for the sport, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that many of them first find their way into Cheyenne River Youth Project programs via our full-size Morgan Yellowhead Gymnasium at Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life).

One of those young people is Madisyn DuBray. Now 15, Madisyn first started coming to CRYP as a sixth-grader who was keen to work on her game; while she enjoyed playing ball and spending time with friends, she started noticing other opportunities for teens.

“I realized I wanted to take part in the internship program, because I wanted an idea of what working would be like,” she says. 

Madisyn completed a Social Enterprise Internship, which allowed her to work in the farm-to-table Keya (Turtle) Cafe & Coffeeshop. As a social enterprise for the nonprofit, grassroots youth organization, all proceeds from the cafe benefit CRYP’s ongoing programming and services. Interns not only learn about food preparation and handling, they gain valuable business skills such as financial literacy and customer service.

“My responsibilities included making sure the food got to the right people, making coffee drinks and smoothies, and cleaning,” Madisyn explains. “It was a lot of cleaning, cooking and helping customers.”

The teen also completed a Native Wellness internship, which educates young people about various aspects of holistic health and wellness while also teaching them to become culture bearers, leaders and mentors within the Lakota Nation. 

“We would work out, host special events for the teen center like Midnight Basketball, and sometimes go on field trips to learn about new things,” Madisyn says. “The most challenging part of the internships is learning how to work with new people; that’s sort of a struggle for me, but it’s helped me open up.”

All CRYP interns have access to trainings that will prove valuable in the years to come, from food handling and financial literacy to First Aid and CPR. Madisyn says the First Aid training was important to her, because she’s interested in pursuing a medical degree one day.

For the CRYP staff, that is what it’s all about: providing Lakota youth with the opportunities they need to pursue a future in which they will thrive. Madisyn says she is grateful for those opportunities.

“CRYP is special, and important to the Cheyenne River community, because they offer jobs and a safe place for kids who need somewhere to go,” she says. “They give us so many opportunities to learn—and to explore what we like. They teach us about Lakota culture, and talk with us about colleges to help us get a better understanding of our futures.”

For Madisyn, that future likely will include military service and a medical career. She says she’s still unsure about where she’d like to go to college, but she does know she wants to be either a nurse or a paramedic.

In the meantime, she enjoys Lakota beadwork, skateboarding, writing and running. And, she enjoys her Cheyenne River community.

“My community accepts everyone,” she says. “It doesn’t matter who you are.”

The community itself is special, she observes, noting, “I think people would be surprised by some of our youth who know how to speak Lakota, and the elders who tell our stories and still honor the traditional ways.”