Tȟeča Hótȟaŋiŋpi (Youth Make Their Voices Heard), CRYP’s youth advisory council, had the opportunity to visit Washington, D.C. One of those council members was Natalie Marshall, and although she’s just 13 years old, she is already making her voice heard at our youth project.

Natalie grew up in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, where she is now a 7th grader at Cheyenne-Eagle Butte Upper Elementary School. She says a full house is what she remembers most about her childhood.

“There were always three or more kids there, and we were all pretty close in age,” she remembers. “I was really lucky to grow up with someone exactly my age, Echo, who is just three weeks older!”

Natalie started attending CRYP programs when she was 12, seeking new experiences and opportunities to socialize. She dived into the teen internships as soon as she could, participating in Art, Social Enterprise, and Lakota Culture.

“My favorites were the Art and Social Enterprise internships,” she says. “Art was really fun. I loved learning fonts and about the different art styles. Social Enterprise was fun too, and it probably was the most useful for me. It will help me in life, preparing me for when I’m older.” 

During the Art Internship, Natalie had the opportunity to participate in a poetry workshop. Being the youngest intern had its challenges, but she says she was determined to persevere.

“I was anxious, because most people were older than me by a couple of years,” she says. “But I wanted to get (my poetry) out there.”

“We were really impressed,” says Wakinyan Chief, CRYP’s art manager. “Her contributions were powerful, and she carries herself with maturity. She is one of the best students I’ve had.” 

“She voices a lot of great ideas,” agreed Morgan Robinson, CRYP’s internship manager. “She’s brave.” 

Natalie says she believes CRYP is an important resource for youth in the Cheyenne River community because it provides a dynamic, engaging environment.

“CRYP is special because it gets kids motivated,” she explains. “It’s like an alternative school! It’s really fun to be here, and when I talk to the other kids in my grade, they say they’re excited about CRYP. We do things here. We’re not just sitting and listening.” 

When she’s not busy at our Čhokáta Wičhóni (Center of Life) teen center, Natalie enjoys developing her art skills. This past Christmas, she received sculpting clay and tools.

“That was an exciting gift,” she says. “I’ve been having fun learning that. I also like drawing, and sketching my ideas. Coding is really fun, too.”

As far as her future is concerned, Natalie says she’d like to be a politician or a lawyer so she can help other Native people, especially women.

“Serving my community means trying my best,” she says. “And respecting others, because we’re all different. I want to help people in my community who are struggling and suffering, especially people who don’t have homes. Everyone deserves help.”