Colgate team helps run youth camp on reservation

Back to All Stories

(Editor’s Note: This article was written by Will Cawthern ’11)

Immediately after graduation, I had the pleasure of helping to run a pilot youth camp on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, home to the Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe. Other participants were Maggie Dunne ’13 and Kelsey John ’13, and fellow recent alumni Brenton Um ’11 and Lauren Miller ’11.

All three graduates agreed that the camp was a fantastic capstone to our respective Colgate careers. Meanwhile, I’m envious that Maggie and Kelsey can take this experience back to campus to share it with classmates and professors.

We went as representatives of Maggie’s non-profit organization, Lakota Pine Ridge Children’s Enrichment Project (LPRCEP).

With monies from fundraisers, individual donors, and the university’s Department of Native American Studies, we worked with representatives from the National Indian Youth Leadership Project (NIYLP), Wings for America, the Oglala Sioux Housing Authority, and Re-Member, to bring a modified version of NIYLP’s Project Venture to 8-to 13-year-olds from the reservation.

Activities during the five-day camp ran the gamut from archery, softball, kickball, mural painting, board and card games, to hikes through the Badlands and discussions with Lakota elders. We were gratified to see that these activities brought out the best in the campers.

Pine Ridge is located in South Dakota in one of the most impoverished counties in the United States. There are very few enrichment opportunities available to the children in the summer months.

Despite the uncooperative weather of the Plains, we worked hard, long days to keep the campers engaged, and in the process we learned valuable lessons about the children we served and about ourselves.

This was LPRCEP’s first attempt to offer a free youth camp at Pine Ridge. It was foremost an honor to be a positive influence on the children at a pivotal time in their lives. It also was rewarding to have shared the experience with similarly committed Colgate peers.

Colgate equipped me with an appreciation for experiences beyond my imagination, and as a newly minted alumnus, I look forward to the university continuing to offer these kinds of opportunities.

I also look forward to continuing to assist the residents of the reservation, and I hope that LPRCEP, which has all of our support, continues to serve the youth of Pine Ridge.