Cheyenne River Youth Project Winter-Spring programs for kids underway

Each year, CRYP holds a winter-spring session of Garden Club at The Main, which allows 4- to 12-year-olds to learn how to plant seeds, care for the growing seedlings and ultimately harvest their own food. In a previous year’s Garden Club, the kids focused on herbs, pictured here; this year, they will plant bush beans and lettuce.Photo courtesy: Cheyenne River Youth Project

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Garden Club starts winter-spring session, Wellness Wednesdays has new addition, and Alternative Sport Thursdays underway

News Release (s)

Cheyenne River Youth Project

It might be the middle of winter, but that doesn’t mean the Cheyenne River Youth Project’s Garden Club is hibernating. To the contrary, the nonprofit organization’s Garden Club starts its winter-spring session at 4:30 p.m. today; open to the 4- to 12-year-olds who attend programming at The Main youth center, this session of Garden Club will run every Monday for eight weeks, concluding on April 2.

In this session, the children will prepare seed pots and plant bush beans and lettuce. Under the direction of Youth Programs Assistant Floyd Braun, they’ll learn to place grow lights and will be responsible for watering their seeds weekly; on February 25, they’ll assess the seedlings’ growth and feed the fledging plants.

They’ll continue monitoring growth in March, trimming and fertilizing the plants as needed. Harvest time is scheduled for March 25, and on Apr. 2, the young students will conclude the winter-spring Garden Club session with a special class that will teach them how to dry lavender.
“This is such an important opportunity for our younger children,” says Jerica Widow, CRYP’s youth programs director. “As they take care of these young plants and harvest this nutritious food, they’re learning about sustainable agriculture. They’re also practicing traditional Lakota life ways and values, and strengthening their personal connection to the earth and to their culture.”

The Main’s Garden Club has been part of CRYP’s regular youth programming for more than a decade. Once the growing season begins on the South Dakota prairie, the children will be out in the 2.5-acre, organic Winyan Toka Win (Leading Lady) Garden on a weekly basis, under the direction of the head gardener (the seasonal head gardener position is currently open; visit to learn more.)

“The children help us plant, care for and harvest our crops, which produce thousands of pounds of food for our Native Food Sovereignty and Social Enterprise initiatives here at CRYP,” says Julie Garreau, executive director. “We incorporate our fresh, nutritious produce into meals and snacks at both the Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) teen center and The Main, as well as into menu items at our farm-to-table Keya (Turtle) Cafe. We also process it, which allows us to sell jams, jellies, salsas and other products through our Keya Gift Shop.”

What’s more, as the children enjoy time outdoors in the garden and learn a variety of new skills, they’re also embarking on a journey that will allow them to participate in CRYP’s innovative internship program at Cokata Wiconi. Once children turn 13, they can apply for teen internships in Native Food Sovereignty, Social Enterprise, Wellness, and Indigenous Foods & Cooking, all of which give them even more educational opportunities and hands-on experience.

“Garden Club is a significant program at The Main, because we understand how important it is to start working with our kids when they’re small,” Garreau says. “We’re giving them opportunities to explore new interests and ideas, which will open even more doors to them as they transition to Cokata Wiconi and their teen years.”

In many ways, Winyan Toka Win is the beating heart of CRYP’s Eagle Butte campus. It has been nominated for several awards in the last decade, including the Garden Supply Company’s Garden Crusaders Award of 2005-2006. Community and youth programming for all ages is made possible with support from Running Strong for American Indian Youth and the J.R. Albert Foundation, as well as through generous contributions from individual supporters across the country.

Teens enjoy the first installment of Alternative Sport Thursdays on Jan. 31, with an energetic game of dodgeball. Photo courtesy: Cheyenne River Youth Project

In other news, due to the ongoing popularity of its Wellness Wednesdays among local youth, the Cheyenne River Youth Project has added a new installment to that program as well as an all-new initiative on Thursdays. Wellness Wednesdays: Weightlifting will start on February 6 in the Cokata Wiconi (Center of Life) fitness center, and Alternative Sport Thursdays: Dodgeball kicked off on January 31 in the Cokata Wiconi gymnasium.

Open free to 13- to 18-year-olds, these wellness programs give young people the opportunity to explore different types of fitness activities. Currently, while the teens work out on the fitness equipment under the direction of youth programs assistants Wendell Nezzie II and Anthony Potter, CRYP also hosts 4- to 12-year-olds for Wellness Wednesdays: Gymnastics in the gymnasium.

Nezzie and Potter turn the gym over to the teens the next day for Alternative Sport Thursdays. Dodgeball will run through February; March is volleyball, April is soccer, May is kickball and June is badminton.

“We actually started dodgeball a week early, because the kids were so excited,” says Jerica Widow, CRYP’s youth programs director. “During the winter months, young people are indoors far too much. We want to give them a variety of ways to engage in physical activity while they’re also exploring their interests.”

The youth project launched Wellness Wednesdays last fall, with courses in gymnastics, dance and circuit training. The gymnastics course was so popular among the younger children, CRYP staff decided to bring it back after the holidays. They added weightlifting in February so the teens would have an option on Wednesdays as well.

“As we discussed the teens’ needs, we realized we had the resources to offer additional sports,” Widow explains. “So we created Alternative Sport Thursdays, and so far, we’ve seen a lot of enthusiasm for the activities on the schedule.”

Both wellness programs—made possible with the support of the Diabetes Action Research and Education Foundation and Nike’s N7 Fund—also offer new opportunities for CRYP’s Native Wellness interns, who help design all wellness-related initiatives. They also serve as mentors, both for their peers and for the younger children who attend The Main youth center next door.

“It’s a privilege to see our interns’ leadership skills grow as they interact with youth of all ages in the programs they’ve helped create and execute,” says Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director. “It’s particularly wonderful to see them engage with the younger kids. Not only are they serving as powerful role models, they’re helping introduce the littles to Cokata Wiconi, where they will transition at the age of 13.”

​To learn more about the Cheyenne River Youth Project and its programs, and for information about making donations and volunteering, call (605) 964-8200 or visit 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).

About the Cheyenne River Youth Project

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.


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