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The Cheyenne River Youth Project has served Lakota youth and their families on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation for more than 35 years. Such longevity is rare for a grassroots, Native-led nonprofit organization, and its founder wants to make sure CRYP endures for generations to come. 
 
 
“Cheyenne River’s children rely on us to be here for them, so we are putting all the necessary pieces in place to make sure that will never be in question,” said Julie Garreau, CRYP’s chief executive officer. “We’re taking the long view, as we always have.”
 
Some of those pieces have involved evolving the organization from a small, volunteer-run youth center for 4- to 12-year-olds to a dynamic 5-acre campus with full- and part-time staff who serve youth up to age 18; creating an endowment fund through the South Dakota Community Foundation; offering new, flexible forms of giving; and building robust partnerships at the local, regional and even national levels.
 
CRYP also is actively pursuing workforce development. Garreau said this involves three key elements.
 
Youth Employment Initiative
 
“First of all, we are adding a new layer to developing our youth workforce,” Garreau explained. “Youth who have completed internships through our Čhokáta Wičhóni (Center of Life) Teen Center may apply for employment through our new Youth Employment Initiative.”
 
The initiative is made possible with support from the Northwest Area Foundation. For some trainees, it may lead to full-time employment with CRYP and a heart-centered mission in their community. For others, the job and life skills they gain will ensure they are strong candidates for opportunities elsewhere. 
 
All CRYP programs are grounded in Lakota culture, so youth trainees also are strengthening their connection to Lakota language, values and traditional life ways as they complete internships, fellowships, leadership initiatives and the training program.
 
“This is essential to healing, which means it’s essential for their future success, wherever life might take them,” Garreau said. “Everyone who works here understands that at a heart level, because Native people are born with trauma. We are our kids, and they are us.” 
 
New Positions
 
Next, CRYP has opened up several new positions. It is currently seeking a chief operating officer, a finance director, an internship manager, programs assistants for both the teen center and “The Main” youth center, and a seasonal gardener for the 2.5-acre Winyan Toka Win (Leading Lady) organic garden, which is the heart of CRYP’s nationally recognized food sovereignty initiative.
 
Garreau acknowledged that the COO position marks a shift in the youth project’s organizational structure. This shift, she said, is a very intentional one.
 
“A few months ago, I transitioned from executive director to chief executive officer,” Garreau said. “The new COO will oversee day-to-day operations here at our busy campus, much as an executive director would do, while I will be able to spend more time working on awareness, outreach and advocacy. It’s an exciting time for all of us.” 
 
The finance director will handle CRYP’s financial life. Employees filling the remaining positions will support existing programming as it continues to grow and evolve.
 
Employee Housing
 
Finally, CRYP is creating its own housing development. Made possible with support from the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe’s TECA program, the South Dakota Community Foundation, and a generous donor who wishes to remain anonymous, the youth project currently has six homes for employees.
 
“We have a housing shortage here on Cheyenne River,” Garreau explained. “Existing homes are overcrowded, and families must endure lengthy wait times for a chance to have a home of their own. This created a massive challenge for us, because even if we could hire someone willing to relocate, there was nowhere for that person to live.
 
“Now, we can offer an affordable new home close to CRYP, schools, shopping and healthcare,” she continued. “As we’ve learned time and again over the last 35 years, when you face great challenges, it’s time to be creative and resourceful. Providing housing is value-added for prospective employees, whether they are coming from a great distance or are perhaps a youth trainee who aspires to build a career right here in our community.”
 
The CRYP housing project includes a tiny home with a loft bedroom, a one-bedroom home, a two-bedroom home, and a three-bedroom home; these are all at the same location. At other sites in town, the youth project also owns a mobile home and a renovated historic home, as well as several acres of open land for additional expansion if and when needed. 
 
To learn more about employment opportunities with CRYP, visit lakotayouth.org/about/employment-opportunities/.

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