School is back in session, and the Cheyenne River Youth Project® has resumed its regular after-school and weekend hours at the Cokata Wiconi (“Center of Life”) teen center and The Main youth center. It also has announced its eagerly anticipated teen and youth programming for the month of September.

In addition to its Sept. 21-25 “Family Week” programming, CRYP also is kicking off its Fall Movie Nights, Midnight Basketball, Junior Midnight Basketball and Main University (diplomas pictured here) this month.

The Fall Movie Nights will take place each Thursday in the Cokata Wiconi teen center and each Friday in The Main youth center. Movie nights at CRYP are always well attended, since young people living on north-central South Dakota’s remote Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation don’t have the option of seeing a popular film in the theaters. The nearest ones are roughly 95 miles away in Pierre or 170 miles away in Rapid City.

Next, on Friday, September 11, young people will enjoy the return of one of CRYP’s longest-running and most popular programs: Midnight Basketball. Created in 1996 by a long-term volunteer, MBB will take place from 7 p.m. to 12 a.m. in the Cokata Wiconi teen center gymnasium. It’s open to youth ages 13 to 18, includes music and refreshments, and allows teens to enjoy the sport and time with friends while staying out past Eagle Butte’s 10 p.m. curfew.

“We don’t have malls, movie theaters, bowling alleys or arcades on the reservation, so Midnight Basketball provides one of the only positive outlets that Cheyenne River’s youth have on a Friday night,” said Tammy Eagle Hunter, CRYP’s youth programs director. “The activities are so much fun that even kids who normally get into trouble around town choose to come to Cokata Wiconi to play ball and hang out with their friends rather than stay on the streets.”

The proof is in local law enforcement statistics. Community-wide crime levels go down on MBB nights. That, Eagle Hunter says, makes MBB vital for the well-being of the entire community, which is strongly in favor of programs that foster healthy and sober lifestyles, physical fitness, personal responsibility, teamwork and positive self-esteem among its treasured young people.

“It also helps alleviate bullying,” she commented, “because it brings together all kids — not just the ‘cool kids.’”

The 4- to 12-year-olds who attend programs at The Main also can join in the fun on September 11. Junior Midnight Basketball will take place in the Cokata Wiconi gymnasium from 5 to 7 p.m.

Then, on Monday, September 28, CRYP will kick off its fall semester of Main University, another one of its most popular and enduring programs. Recipient of a “Champion for Children” award from the South Dakota Coalition for Children, Main University is designed for 4- to 12-year-olds who attend The Main youth center; it was founded by long-term volunteer Tracie Farrell in 2002.

In this special program, participants take short courses that mimic those offered in a college setting. The courses give Cheyenne River children a chance to study subjects that may not be offered in school. The program uses language from higher education, such as “university,” “credits” and “valedictorian,” to familiarize students with their options in and after high school.

Finally, on Wednesday, September 30, The Main will host its monthly birthday party for its youth participants. At 5 p.m., all children with September birthdays will enjoy a traditional birthday party complete with cake and ice cream, games and gifts.

“Too many of our children here on Cheyenne River have never celebrated a birthday at home,” Garreau said. “All across America, children eagerly anticipate their birthdays and enjoy special celebrations with family and friends, and we believe our children deserve such a happy occasion as well. We want to give them priceless memories that will last a lifetime, the sort of memories that will constantly remind them how very loved and important they are.”

To support the monthly birthday party program by funding the birthday cake, contact CRYP at (605) 964-8200 or click “Help CRYP” in the navigation bar above. And, to stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook (/LakotaYouth), Twitter (@LakotaYouth) and Instagram (@waniyetuwowapi).

The Cheyenne River Youth Project, founded in 1988, is a grassroots, not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing the youth of the Cheyenne River reservation with access to a vibrant and secure future through a wide variety of culturally sensitive and enduring programs, projects and facilities that ensure strong, self-sufficient families and communities.