RAPID CITY, S.D. (KELO) — A mentor program called “Friends of the Children” is opening up its first chapter in Rapid City.

Friends of the Children is a nationwide organization that provides mentors for kids as young as 4-years-old and through high school graduation.

“Children that are in our program have really great outcomes. High percentages enter the workforce after high school so they will enter the workforce at a livable wage, enter the armed forces or into the higher education,” Tasha Fridia, National Dir. of Tribal Programs, Friends of the Children, said.

The He Sapa Chapter here in Rapid City is the first culturally-specific site with the Friends of the Children organization.

“We’re looking at mentors who have that cultural understanding and awareness and grounding and know who they are and where they come from, because they are going to be instilling that and serving as a role model and modeling those behaviors to the youth,” Big Eagle said.

Valeriah Big Eagle, the Chapter’s Executive Director, says a program like this is a need for the Rapid City community.

“We’ve been asking for this. And if I can make some impact being in this role as executive director then I will do whatever I can to fight for the indigenous youth and families because this is our community and those are my children as well,” Big Eagle said.

“I think within in Rapid City specifically we’ve seen an increase of violence and drugs and things like that and what can Friends of the Children do to help our children and our entire community from those challenges that we are facing,” Fridia said.

By supporting indigenous youth in the community through cultural values, the He Sapa Chapter believes they will be more likely to succeed.

The He Sapa Chapter Executive Director says she is working to hire more mentors and staff. She is also working with selected partners to find youth right for the Friends of the Children program.