Thunder Valley CDC is a community-based organization and our mission is to empower Lakota youth and families to improve the health, culture, and environment of our communities through the healing and strengthening of cultural identity. Our work in the Youth Leadership Development Initiative (YLDI) pursues a multifaceted approach grounded in theories and evidence based perspectives focused on promoting protective factors in youth. Positive Youth Development theory is used to design youth programs that optimize developmental progress and strengthen cultural identity. Thunder Valley CDC is located on the 11,000-square mile Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, which is the second-largest Native American Reservation within the United States and is home to about 32,000 mostly Oglala Lakota residents.
Lakota youth have a high rate of Adverse Childhood Effects and there is a substantially high suicide completion and attempts rate. Mental illness and emotional disturbances including depression among youth are also common. There is a lack of community based outreach, prevention, and post-interventions that address suicide and substance use among youth up to age 19. There are many strategic plans which include collecting and sharing data to improve service coordination and delivery, however there is a lack of strategic plan implementation, collaboration between agencies, and sharing of data results and findings with each other.
Our YLDI program goals are intended to prevent suicide and substance misuse, reduce the impact of trauma, and promote mental health among youth through the age of 19 years on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Our project will focus on youth up to age 19 and serve at least 550 children. Programming will provide holistic, culturally relevant services for families to increase suicide protective and resiliency factors, and provide traditional teachings on parenting to reduce the impact of trauma among our target population. Participants will receive training in ACEs through community outreach, cultural activities, events, and/or workshops. We will create a parenting curriculum based on the traditional Lakota Life Course model. Programming will also provide holistic and culturally relevant suicide outreach services using a positive youth development theory framework to reduce suicide ideation, attempts and completions in our target population. Staff will receive facilitator training for Youth and Adult Mental Health First Aid. Staff will then host community trainings for schools, parents, youth, and public. During summer months, staff will host four suicide prevention social activities for 10-15 youth recruits ages 13-18 and community. Lastly, programming will provide holistic and culturally relevant substance use services using a positive youth development theory framework to decrease substance use for our target population. Youth and community members will receive monthly supplemental educational services related to substance use. Youth will also receive weekly prevention activities and cultural interventions to youth during the school year. Through designated youth programming, children will show a 50% decrease in substance use.