The Cheyenne River Youth Project Invests in Valuable Staff Training to Better Serve Local Youth

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EAGLE BUTTE, SOUTH DAKOTA — This spring, the Cheyenne River Youth Project is investing in a series of valuable staff training and development sessions that will enhance staff members’ ability to serve local youth and their families at every level. The sessions cover a broad range of subjects and are taking place this month and in April.

Already complete is “Compassion Fatigue Training” with Denise Casillas. She has a master’s degree in clinical psychology from the University of South Dakota and is currently the director of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe’s Four Bands Healing Center.

The CRYP staff also has completed “Motivational Interviewing,” “Empowering Defiant Teenagers,” “Non-defensive Communication,” “Anxiety in Kids, Teens and Adults,” and “Crisis Intervention” with visiting facilitator Alex “Shoshi” Krosner. This former CRYP volunteer earned her bachelor’s degree in social welfare at the University of Washington in Seattle and a master’s degree in clinical social work at the University of Pennsylvania.

Krosner is now a licensed social worker in Washington D.C. She works at an outpatient mental health clinic for kids and teens with behavioral issues, histories of trauma, mental health disorders and addictions. She is particularly interested in treating anxiety disorders.

According to Tammy Eagle Hunter, CRYP’s executive director, the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation experienced a recent shock wave of destructive, self-harming behavior among its young people — including suicide. She said Krosner’s offer to provide these staff training sessions came at a crucial time.

“The training sessions helped us learn critical techniques involving de-escalation and non-defensive communication,” she explained. “When working with kids in our environment, it’s so important to treat them with dignity, understand where they are coming from, and respect their feelings and motivations.”

Eagle Hunter also noted that, thanks to Casillas, the staff learned valuable lessons about self-care and stress relief.

“With an organization like ours, working in the human services arena, avoiding burnout is as critical as our interactions with the youth and families we serve,” she said. “We cannot help and motivate our young people if we’re not taking care of ourselves as well. Learning to strive for holistic wellness is important to us — for our children, and for us as individuals.”

Julie Garreau, CRYP’s executive director, added that every staff member is deeply invested in the 26-year-old, not-for-profit’s future and the long-term well-being of Cheyenne River youth.

“We are a team,” she said. “Together, we work hard to add to our skill sets so we can serve our young people to the very best of our ability. For example, all of our staff members have earned their CPR certifications. They’re also ServSafe-certified food handlers. They’ve had expert training on drug recognition and identification, gang recognition and identification, bullying, and school violence. They’ve gone through suicide training.

“They’ve even participated in dedicated art training sessions so they can better support the kids who come to the Cokata Wiconi (“Center of Life”) teen center to participate in our art programs,” she continued. “We’re always looking for new staff development opportunities so CRYP has the most qualified, able workforce possible.”

Because staff members also need to be able to convey CRYP’s mission and message to a variety of outside audiences, Garreau has invited Mountain View, California-based public speaking coach Melissa Goldman to visit the Eagle Butte campus in April. At CRYP, Goldman will be leading a two-day workshop called “Foundations for Public Speaking,” in which staff members will build public-speaking confidence, develop content, and improve delivery skills. They’ll have several opportunities to practice their public speaking and receive feedback.

“Our staff will come out of this program better prepared to pitch to potential donors, advocate for CRYP to the tribal government, and motivate students and staff to achieve our youth project’s goals,” Garreau said. “We’re very much looking forward to Melissa’s arrival, and we’re grateful to her, to Shoshi Krosner, and to Denise Casillas for the opportunities they are giving us this spring. They’re immeasurably valuable not only to us, but to our entire community.”

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, LinkedIn and Twitter.


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