The Cheyenne River Youth Project® is inviting local youth to attend Midnight Basketball at the Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) teen center on Friday, Feb. 24 and Thursday, Mar. 2. Not only will 13- to 18-year-olds have the always-welcome opportunity to play their favorite sport and hang out with friends, they’ll be able to learn more about the nonprofit youth organization’s innovative teen internship program.
On these two evenings, Midnight Basketball will incorporate a recruitment station where teens can get more information about upcoming internships in wellness, sustainable agriculture, social enterprise and the arts.
“We’re looking forward to meeting with kids who might not be fully aware of what we offer here,” said Tammy Granados, CRYP’s youth programs director. “Through the internship program, teens can earn their own money, earn valuable certifications, and gain real-life job experience.”
In the three years since CRYP launched its teen internship program at Cokata Wiconi, approximately 200 teenagers have completed internships in the four signature subject areas. Not only have these young people gained valuable skills that will serve them well all their lives, they are having a deep and lasting impact on the Cheyenne River reservation’s economy.
“Our intention with the internship program is to contribute to the development of our Lakota workforce,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “We’ve invested roughly $40,000 in our teenagers, providing instruction, mentorship, experience and wages. That’s made a profound difference for our kids, because as they embark on this journey, they’re taking huge strides toward becoming healthy, resilient, well-rounded adults who can make their dreams a reality—and lift up their communities in the process.”
According to Garreau, the CRYP staff has witnessed a significant shift in how the teens view their finances. Not only does the internship stipend allow them to buy things they and their families might need, the internship experience encourages them to think about how they can earn more money in the future.
One intern purchased a lawn mower so he could provide lawn-care services. Some have purchased musical equipment. And others have found themselves to be preferred hires at area businesses, due to the strength of their resumes, their interviewing abilities, and their job readiness.
“It’s exciting, and moving, to see these changes happening,” Garreau said. “What’s even more profound for us is the awareness that they’ll pass on their newfound work ethic, values and entrepreneurial spirit to their own children. They’ll inspire others.”
For that reason, the teen internship program has become the beating heart of Cokata Wiconi. While CRYP continues to offer Midnight Basketball and other drop-in programs for Cheyenne River teens who need a safe, positive, healthy space, the youth project has increasingly turned its attention to intensive, one-on-one programming.
“We’ve never had programs here that exist just for their own sake,” Garreau said. “We’ve always had a larger purpose in what we do, and we’re very much guided by our young people—what they need, and what resonates most deeply for them. We decided to play an active role in workforce development through teen internships, because that’s what our young people need and want. Now, perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s caught fire.”
To stay up to date on the latest CRYP news and events, follow the youth project on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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.