2020 Running Strong for American Indian Youth® Dreamstarter S’Nya Sanchez (Standing Rock Sioux, 19, of Bismarck, North Dakota) was just 16 when she applied to our $10,000 Dreamstarter grant program to realize her dream to encourage Native youth in her community to get more involved in cultural and physical activities and learn more about cooking healthy meals for themselves and their families.
Today, through S’Nya’s “Leave the Couch” project she is still working hard with support of our “Keeping the Dream Alive” program which provided her $5,000 to do just that.
“We will continue efforts to engage Native American youth in unique physical activity opportunities and develop healthy cooking skills,” reported her mentor, Cheryl Kary, Executive Director of our longtime partner, the Sacred Pipe Resource Center (SPRC) in Mandan.
“S’Nya is invested in keeping the program operating to give positive opportunities for Native youth to experience unique physical activities that they may not have an opportunity to experience otherwise – due to cost or knowledge barriers – as well as learn how to cook and consume healthier choices in food, which cost, and unfamiliarity may also prohibit.”
With her grant funding, S’Nya will be able to continue her project at least through the end of this year which the ongoing goals being to expose Native youth to more physical activity and how make healthy food choices as well as to ultimately “create healthier Native communities by helping the next generation gain experiences they may not normally have.”
S’Nya’s mentor organization, the SPRC, was founded in 2007 by a group of individuals who are long-term residents of the area and are committed to maintaining a “home-away-from-home” for the off-reservation Native American population in the Bismarck/Mandan area.
Cheryl explained that the SPRC’s mission is “is to address and support the social/cultural, emotional, mental, spiritual and physical needs of Native people of all tribes living in the area in order to foster strong, self-sufficient individuals and families, and to provide liaison services between Native and non-Native people in order to foster a cohesive community.”
And that is exactly what S’Nya is doing through her Dreamstarter project.
“The ‘Leave the Couch’ project will help expose Native American youth, who are often isolated in this urban area, to connect with other Native youth while learning and experiencing unique opportunities around healthy physical activity and eating,” says Cheryl. “Most of the activities this project promotes are activities that may be cost-prohibitive for Native youth to experience.
“This exposure gives them an opportunity to see if they enjoy or have an affinity for an activity, or to see if they like the taste of healthier foods.”
The budget includes covering expenses for project activities such as archery, ice skating at the Bismarck Parks & Recreation rink, rental fees for skates, kayaks and paddleboards, facilities rentals such as park shelters, as well as groceries to purchase unique foods that the youth may experience cooking for the first time.
In addition, to encourage regular attendance, SPRC provides participation incentives for those who attend most of the events for them to achieve consistency and knowledge gain.
Among the activities the children and youth had the opportunity to participate in in previous years, included paintball games, archery lessons and enjoying “traditional cornballs” which are made using dried, ground corn. (Sun-dried corn, a low-calorie food full of vitamins and minerals, has long been a staple food in the Native American diet and does not need to be refrigerated for storage, according to the South Dakota State University Cooperative Extension Service.)
“The youth were so happy with the opportunities they got to participate in events they wouldn’t normally get to participate in,” says Cheryl. “All of the young people were happy to be a part of the events, and many parents expressed their gratitude for giving their teens these opportunities they wouldn’t normally have had.”