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CRYP Hall of Fame

February Hall of Fame: Claudia Iron Hawk

The beating heart of the Cheyenne River Youth Project’s Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) teen center is its internship program. Created three years ago to provide Cheyenne River’s teens with opportunities to learn valuable job and life skills, the program now includes robust, innovative internships in sustainable agriculture, social enterprises, wellness and the arts.

Some teens gravitate to internships in just one area. Others, like Claudia Iron Hawk, are so inspired by what they’ve learned, they seek new opportunities at every turn. Claudia, 16, has already completed three sustainable agriculture internships, an arts internship focused on graffiti and street art, and a social enterprises internship, which involves operations in the youth project’s Keya (Turtle) Cafe and Keya Gift Shop.

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September Hall of Fame: Randi Little Star

In the years since we launched our Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) teen center’s internship programs, we’ve learned two very important things. Cheyenne River’s teens crave opportunities to learn new job and life skills, and they welcome mentorships that inspire them and encourage them to imagine all the possibilities for the future.

Some of these teens desire and appreciate these experiences so much, they sign up for every internship we offer. Randi Little Star, 16, is one of them. This active 10th-grader has completed Sustainable Agriculture, Social Enterprise and Wellness internships, and she’s currently working her way through the Waniyetu Wowapi (Winter Count) Teen Arts Internship.

“I signed up for all the internships because I like helping people, and I really wanted to gain more experience in all these different areas,” Randi says. “I’d like to do even more, because I enjoy the tasks, and I love learning new things every day.”

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August Hall of Fame: Salicia Jewett

While many of the Cheyenne River Youth Project’s teen interns have completed multiple internship programs at our Eagle Butte campus, we are constantly welcoming new participants. We take great pleasure in watching them learn new skills, develop a sense of pride in themselves and in their work, and design future plans that incorporate these meaningful job and life experiences.

Salicia Jewett, 17, is one of our new interns. This month, she is working in our Keya (Turtle) Cafe as a social enterprises intern; her responsibilities include cleaning and maintaining the cafe’s commercial kitchen, hand-crafting the cafe’s signature coffee drinks, and providing customer service.

“It’s a lot of the same chores you do at home, but I enjoy helping people, so I don’t really think of it as a job,” Salicia says. “I thought it was time to get off the sofa and do something… to stop being so dependent on my parents.”

So far, Salicia says her favorite parts of the job involve making coffee and the signature drinks, helping with the cooking, and serving customers. She also enjoys the opportunity to work with the CRYP team in the Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) teen center.

“This is my first job, and I love it,” she says enthusiastically. “Everyone is so nice.”

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July Hall of Fame: Lisa Littleton

When the Cheyenne River Youth Project first launched its innovative teen internship programs in 2014, its primary goal was to give Cheyenne River’s young people new opportunities to learn job and life skills that would serve them well into adulthood. That goal is now being realized, as some of their more experienced interns are entering the workforce with talent, ability and enthusiasm.

Lisa Littleton, 18, started attending CRYP’s programs in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, when she was a young child. Three years ago, she decided to tackle the first-ever Sustainable Agriculture internship. She served as a intern for three years, becoming intimately familiar with the youth project’s 2-acre Winyan Toka Win (Leading Lady) garden.

Then she heard CRYP needed a staff gardener for summer 2016. Lisa says it was an easy decision to apply for the job.

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June Hall of Fame: Kellyn Circle Eagle

Through the Cheyenne River Youth Project’s teen internship programs, we’re able to engage young people with a variety of interests. Some teens want to work in our organic Winyan Toka Win (Leading Lady) garden. Others wish to learn to make gourmet coffees and prepare handcrafted entrees with farm-to-table ingredients in our Keya (Turtle) Cafe, or sell CRYP’s wares through our Keya Gift Shop and seasonal Leading Lady Farmers Market. Still others can’t wait to develop their skills in the arts, or become wellness mentors for their peers.

Then there are the teens who feel drawn to all of it. Kellyn Circle Eagle, 16, is one of those bright lights. Not only has Kellyn completed internships in art, wellness and social enterprise, she’s now a regular summer employee in the Keya Cafe.

The soon-to-be high school junior first started attending CRYP programs as an eighth-grader. She says she was excited to go to the Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) teen center due to the many opportunities it offered, from regular youth programming to the impressive menu of available internships for willing teens.

“I enjoyed Midnight Basketball and open gym,” she reflects. “They kept me occupied and doing positive things. The wellness internship kept me exercising and healthy; it was really fun. I also completed the art internship, because I always like art and want to continue learning. And the Keya Cafe—it seemed fun and interesting. I loved it!”

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May Hall of Fame: Serena Eagle

Before the Cheyenne River Youth Project® was founded in 1988, children growing up on the Cheyenne River Lakota reservation didn’t have many options for safe, positive places to go outside of school. When CRYP opened the doors to its Main youth center, 4- to 12-year-olds finally had their own space for playing, learning, and enjoying healthy meals and snacks.

When the Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) teen center opened in 2006, local teens were able to take advantage of the same opportunities. Not only could they socialize with friends, get homework help, play sports and get something to eat, they could learn valuable new skills, have access to mentors, gain valuable experience and insights, and pursue their passions in a way that leads to greater successes in higher education, in careers and in life.

How does CRYP measure success? It looks toward its “regulars,” teens who grow and blossom in so many ways during their years at Cokata Wiconi. Serena Eagle, 16, is a perfect example. She has been coming to the teen center for three years; while playing basketball in the Morgan Yellowhead Gymnasium was the initial draw, Serena now actively participates in CRYP’s ongoing teen fitness classes and in its innovative, edgy arts programming.

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April Hall of Fame: Sapphire Lucero

When the Cheyenne River Youth Project opened the doors to its Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) teen center 10 years ago, staff members envisioned that the 26,000-square-foot facility would become a true center of life in the Cheyenne River community. And, they hoped teens would use the center and its offerings to find their true passions, their authentic voices and a variety of healthy, culturally relevant ways to move effectively toward achieving their dreams.

That’s exactly what Cokata Wiconi has done for young people like Sapphire Lucero, 14. Sapphire has been attending CRYP programs and events since 2012; and, while she enjoys hanging out with friends in the teen center and the Keya Cafe, she also has become an accomplished teen art intern.

“I wanted to get better at art,” she explains. “I thought this would be a great opportunity.”

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March Hall of Fame: Wendell Nezzie

Wendell Nezzie is a valuable member of the Cheyenne River Youth Project’s youth programming staff. He also is a CRYP alumnus.

Wendell grew up in a small community called Wicagakapi Sa, or Red Scaffold, in the western part of South Dakota’s remote Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation. He became a regular at CRYP’s Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) teen center as a high school freshman.

“It was the only place I could go to play basketball with my friends,” he says. “It was such a great place, such a safe environment to be in. I participated in the wellness program and open gym, I came to Midnight Basketball, and I worked with youth in the summertime. I decided I wanted to join the staff when I saw all the great things they were doing for the kids and the community.”

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February Hall of Fame: Elijah Brown Wolf

In recent years, the Cheyenne River Youth Project® has devoted significant resources to its wellness programming. We believe the best way to serve our children and provide for a positive, healthy future is to address their holistic well-being — from nutrition and fitness, to community service, to connecting with the land and Lakota traditions.

These efforts have resonated with Cheyenne River’s young people, particularly with our teens. One of them is Elijah Brown Wolf, 17, who started participating in CRYP programming as a small child at The Main youth center for 4- to 12-year-olds, and he began attending the Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) teen center in spring 2011. His involvement at Cokata Wiconi has inspired CRYP staff members on multiple levels.

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January Hall of Fame: Maxwell Peacock

Maxwell Peacock, 14, is a member of CRYP’s second cohort of Waniyetu Wowapi (Winter Count) Art Interns. He started coming to our campus regularly about a year ago, drawn to the environment and learning opportunities he saw at the Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) teen center — in particular, he says he was interested in our arts programming.

CRYP began its innovative teen arts internship program last winter. During each four-month internship cycle, teens participate in training opportunities, engage in open studio time, attend leadership development workshops, explore career opportunities for artists, plan community events to promote our groundbreaking Waniyetu Wowapi Art Park, and unveil their own work within that free public space when it’s ready.

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