The Center for Native American Youth at the Aspen Institute (CNAY), created by former US Senator Bryon Dorgan, is dedicated to improving the health, safety, and overall well-being of Native American youth. CNAY is aimed at bringing greater national attention to the issues facing Native youth through communication, policy development, and advocacy. To shine a spotlight on inspirational stories and promote hope in Indian country, the CNAY created the Champions for Change program.

In 2017, CNAY partnered with the Cheyenne River Youth Project (CRYP) to create a community-specific program that respectfully honors and recognizes young leaders on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation located in South Dakota. This new initiative is called the Growing Into Wówačhiŋyepi program, which will target Native youth across the reservation and target the unique community value system of the Lakota Nation.

What is Growing Into Wówačhiŋyepi?

The Cheyenne River Youth Project believes that in the communities located within the 2.8 million acres of the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, home to the Lakota people, exists a unique outlook on what it means to be a leader and what it means to achieve. Through this program, we plan to honor young people who are Growing Into Wówačhiŋyepi and promote respect and honor in the Lakota view on leadership.

 What is wówačhiŋyepi?

Wówačhiŋyepi means: those you can depend on, those you can trust to lead.

Interested in Growing Into Wówačhiŋyepi! Now what?

We want to hear from you! The Growing Into Wówačhiŋyepi is calling for youth on Cheyenne River to submit their stories of leadership and service. Stories from applicants will be collected and reviewed by the Cheyenne River Youth Project and a small review committee of local residents and program, as well as partners from across Indian country.

Seven individuals will be selected to be recognized at a local recognition event in Eagle Butte, SD, and of those seven, four will be selected to participate in a trip to Washington, DC in November for additional leadership development. The Cheyenne River Youth Project invites you to be creative with your story submissions by encouraging written, art, and/or video submissions. Please review the submission categories to guide you in describing you story of service and inspiration for the application process:

  • Health (including youth suicide prevention; bereavement, grief, and healing practices/promotion; and substance and alcohol abuse prevention);
  • Sports, Nutrition, Wellness;
  • Education, Mentorship, or Afterschool Programs;
  • Juvenile Justice and Deliquency Prevention;
  • Building Healthy Relationship and Peer Relationships;
  • Cultural Preservation and Native Languages;
  • Anti-Bullying and Personal Empowerment;
  • Self-Expression through Arts and Crafts;
  • Emerging Leadership in Government Service; and
  • Economic and Community Development.
  • Other

How to Apply

Cheyenne River Youth ages 14-20 should apply for Growing Into Wówačhiŋyepi by visiting the Cokata Wiconi Teen Center for a paper application. This application can also be requested digitally by emailing or calling 605-964-8200. Paper copies will also be distributed to the school systems and community programs. You can also click here to download the application package.

Complete applications include:

  • Application form;
  • Three letters of recommendation (two adult forms & a peer form); and
  • Your story of positive change in responses to questions in essay or video form

Application materials will be evaluated by the Cheyenne River Youth Project and a small review committee of local residents and programs, as well as partners from across Indian Country.

Application Deadline: SEPTEMBER 8, 2017

What happens if I am selected as a finalist?

Finalists will be notified a week prior to public announcement by the Cheyenne River Youth Project in October. The SEVEN finalists will be recognized in the following ways:

  1. Naming Ceremony and Honoring
  2. Certificate of Achievement
  3. Wopila Dinner

The FOUR finalists will continue to be recognized in the following ways:

  1. Professional Skills Building Workshops
  2. Leadership Training
  3. Holistic Wellness Trainings
  4. All expense-paid trip to Washington, DC in November

The programs and trainings are designed to help assist the young leaders in developing and enhancing their innate skills, as well as arming them with the tools and skills necessary in continuing their growth as a young leader in our community.

Application Instructions:

In order for your application to be reviewed you must submit a signed and completed application form, an essay or video describing your work to promote positive change, and completed recommendation forms (2 adult and 1 peer recommendation). You can email, fax, or mail all forms in one packet to:

P.O. BOX 410
FAX: (605) 964-8201
PHONE: (605) 964-8200


 SEPTEMBER 8, 2017