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Lakota workforce initiative meets fundraising goal

Thunder Valley CDC - Web Ready
Thunder Valley CDC
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Thunder Valley, a Lakota empowerment organization, has raised $100,000 for its next workforce development group. That money will provide education, mentorship, and leadership opportunities for those in the program.

The ten-month workforce program targets native young adults unsure of the next steps in their life.

Lynette Kills Back, Thunder Valley workforce development director, said those entering the program will finish with a life skill.

“Like carpentry, plumbing, electricians, to even get into that skillset, to get into that profession, I think it takes a special person to learn that and help out people like me who don’t know a lick of construction," Kills Back said. "Some contractors out there require at least 300 hours of on-hands training with tools. Those are part of the main focus points we help them get started with.”

Kills Back says previous participants have found success.

“A lot of them are employable once they leave my program, so they get picked up by contractors whether it be up there in Rapid City or wherever they go to," Kills Back said. "We also have the Oglala Sioux Tribal Housing Authority, where I currently have four of my past cohort participants who currently work for them.”

But Kills Back said participation goes beyond learning trade skills.

“We also work on that individual as a whole," Kills Back said. "Holistically, we help them learn their culture. We teach them how to pray, every morning we give thanks we smudge each other off, offer a prayer, and we get out and start with our day. The core participants have the opportunity to learn our Lakota language, the opportunity to participate in our customs and practices like our sweat ceremony.”

Kills Back said eligible applicants include eligible or enrolled members of any federally recognized tribe between the ages of 18 and 26. Applications can be found at the following link.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering education, healthcare, arts and culture.