From this Friday, Aug. 11 until Friday, Sept. 8, applications will be available for the new “Growing into Wowachinyepi” program for youth leaders on South Dakota’s Cheyenne River Lakota reservation. The Cheyenne River Youth Project® recently joined forces with the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute to create this exciting one-year pilot project, which is modeled on CNAY’s national “Champions for Change” program.

This community-specific initiative is designed to respectfully honor young leaders in a culturally relevant youth recognition program, which is designed specifically for Lakota youth and the Lakota Nation’s traditional value system.

“Our community has its own unique outlook on what it means to be a leader, and what it means to achieve,” said Tammy Granados, CRYP’s youth programs director. “The Lakota word wowachinyepi means ‘one who the people can depend on’ — the ‘Growing into Wowachinyepi’ program seeks to promote that distinctly Lakota view of leadership while honoring and recognizing young people who exemplify our community values.”

Young people ages 14-20 who are interested in the new program must submit their own stories of leadership and service. CRYP staff members, a committee comprising local residents and representatives from local organizations, and partners from across Indian Country will review the applicants’ stories and select seven individuals who will be recognized in Eagle Butte with a naming ceremony and honoring, a certificate of achievement, and a wopila (thank you) dinner.

Of those seven, four will be selected to continue their journey through professional skills-building workshops, leadership training and holistic wellness trainings. In addition, these four youth will be able to participate in an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C. this November for additional leadership development.

“We encourage our young people to be creative with their applications, especially since there are more than 10 submission categories,” Granados said. “We welcome written and video submissions that tell the applicants’ personal stories. To be considered, we need that storytelling vehicle along with the completed, signed application form and three letters of recommendation, two from adults and one from a peer.”

To obtain a paper application, visit CRYP’s Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) teen center. For a digital application, send an email to tammy.cryp@gmail.com or call the CRYP office at 605-964-8200. Paper copies also will be distributed to the Cheyenne River reservation’s schools and community programs.

And, 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.

The Center for Native American Youth is a policy program of The Aspen Institute, located in Washington, DC. Created by former US Senator Byron Dorgan, CNAY believes Native American youth should lead full and healthy lives, have equal access to opportunity, and draw strength from their culture and one another. CNAY focuses on the resilience of Native youth and supports them through youth recognition, inspiration, and leadership; research, advocacy, and policy change; serving as a national resource exchange; and by developing strengths-based Native youth media opportunities. Learn more at www.cnay.org.