The Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute (CNAY), created by former US Senator Bryon Dorgan, is dedicated to improving the health, safety, and overall well being of Native American youth. CNAY is aimed at bringing greater national attention to the issues facing Native youth through communication, policy development, and advocacy. To shine a spotlight on inspirational stories and promote hope in Indian country, the CNAY invites Native youth annually to take part in the Champions for Change program.

In 2017, CNAY partnered with the Cheyenne River Youth Project (CRYP) to create a community-specific program that respectfully honors and recognizes young leaders on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation located in South Dakota. This new initiative is called the Growing Into Wowachinyepi program, which will target Native youth across the reservation and target the unique community value system of the Lakota Nation.

On this page, you will find a short description of the application process for the Growing Into Wowachinyepi program. For more details and up-to-date information on the program, please contact Jerica Widow at the Cheyenne River Youth Project (605) 964-8200 or via email at

What is Growing Into Wowachinyepi ?

The Cheyenne River Youth Project believes that in the communities located within the 2.8 million acres of the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, home to the Lakota people, exists a unique outlook on what it means to be a leader and what it means to achieve. Through this program, we plan to honor young people who are Growing Into Wowachinyepi and promote respect and honor in the Lakota view on leadership.

What is wowachinyepi?

Wowachinyepi means: those you can depend on, those you can trust to lead.

I am interested in Growing Into Wowachinyepi! Now what?

We want to hear from you! The Growing into Wowachinyepi is calling for youth on Cheyenne River to submit their stories of leadership and service. Stories from applicants will be collected and reviewed by the Cheyenne River Youth Project and a small review committee of local residents and program, as well as partners from across Indian country.

Seven individuals will be selected to be recognized at a local recognition event in Eagle Butte, SD, and of those seven, four will be selected to participate in a trip to Washington, DC in November for additional leadership development. The Cheyenne River Youth Project invites you to be creative with your story submissions by encouraging written, art, and/or video submissions. Please review the submission categories to guide you in describing you story of service and inspiration for the application process:

  • Health (including youth suicide prevention; bereavement, grief, and healing practices/promotion; and substance and alcohol abuse prevention);
  • Sports, Nutrition, Wellness;
  • Education, Mentorship, or Afterschool Programs;
  • Juvenile Justice and Deliquency Prevention;
  • Building Healthy Relationship and Peer Relationships;
  • Cultural Preservation and Native Languages;
  • Anti-Bullying and Personal Empowerment;
  • Self-Expression through Arts and Crafts;
  • Emerging Leadership in Government Service; and
  • Economic and Community Development.
  • Other

How do I apply?

Cheyenne River Youth ages 14-20 can apply for Growing Into Wowachinyepi in one of the following ways:

  • Visit the Cokata Wiconi Teen Center for a paper application.
  • Request a digital application by  by emailing  or calling 605-964-8200
  • Download the application form here.
  • Use the form below to apply online.

Complete applications include:  

  • Application form;
  • Three letters of recommendation (two adult forms & a peer form); and
  • Your story of positive change in responses to questions in essay or video form

Application materials will be evaluated by the Cheyenne River Youth Project and a small review committee of local residents and programs, as well as partners from across Indian Country. Application deadline is March 8, 2021.

What happens if I am selected as a finalist?

Finalists will be notified a week prior to public announcement by the Cheyenne River Youth Project in March. The FIVE finalists will be recognized in the following ways:

  1. Community Honoring
  2. Certificate of Achievement
  3. Wopila Dinner

The FIVE finalists will continue to be recognized in the following ways:

  1. Professional Skills Building Workshops
  2. Leadership Training
  3. Holistic Wellness Trainings
  4. All expense-paid trip to a Government Agency

The programs and trainings are designed to help assist the young leaders in developing and enhancing their innate skills, as well as arming them with the tools and skills necessary in continuing their growth as a young leader in our community.

Application Instructions

In order for your application to be reviewed you must submit a signed and completed application form, an essay or video describing your work to promote positive change, and completed recommendation forms (2 adult and 1 peer recommendation).

There are several ways to submit your application:

Submit the online form below. Please send the link to this page to your adult and peer references so they can fill out and submit their recommendations.

Email your application to: Jerica Widow –

Fax your application to: Jerica Widow – (605) 964-8201

Mail your application to:

P.O. BOX 410
PHONE: (605) 964-8200

Application deadline is March 8, 2021