Making an Impact: Rapid City Youth Institute

Many extracurricular activities in the Black Hills focus on academics, sports, or agriculture. More and more are starting to focus on liberal arts and creative industries, and the Rapid City Youth Institute is leading the way.

In 2012, former YMCA Director Roger Gallimore attended a conference in Long Beach, California where he learned about the Youth Institute. He was impressed by the program, and when he came home he got to work replicating it in Rapid City. The first summer program in 2013 had eight teenagers sign up, and it’s only grown every year since. 

Get ready to learn

The Youth Institute is an 8-week long summer program for kids in 7-10th grade that teaches the basics of creative media. Classes in the program focus on graphic design, photography, video, and magazine layout. The program starts out with a week-long camping trip where the students can bond and become friends, and ends with a graduation ceremony and presentation of their final project. 

Chris Huling has been the Youth Institute’s Coordinator for the past year, and he’s enjoyed every minute of it. 

“Sometimes it’s a hard sell, getting parents to sign their kids up for 8 weeks of summer camp, but it’s so worth it,” he says. “The kids learn so much and love coming here. It’s a great program, and really fills a niche to help kids explore creative fields.”

Looking to the future

Once students graduate from the 8-week summer program, they can participate in the Youth Institute’s after-school program. The school year schedule isn’t as formal as the summer, allowing students to focus on things that interest them. Students learn more skills like editing, leadership, screenwriting and video projects, and can earn badges for completing each course. 

The next step is coming back during the summer as part of the alumni programs. In these classes, students learn more specialized skills, but also help teach and mentor the younger students in the program. Alumni can also work towards certifications, including the Adobe Certified Associate. The ACA validates professional proficiency in a specific Adobe Software, and puts students on par with college graduates and creative professionals.  

The Youth Institute also offers the Perspective program, where students work with local businesses and nonprofits to create screen printed shirts. Students are involved in every step of the process from taking the initial order to buying shirts and creating the design. 

“Perspective helps them learn the entrepreneurship they need to market their creative skills,” Chris says. “It really helps them connect the dots between the creative process and the business aspect.” 

The Youth Institute has been hugely successful so far, and as they look forward to their 10th year Chris says they hope to include more community members in the program. “It would be great to have people in the community come teach,” he says. “Even just a short class or a workshop, it would be great for the kids to see people who are actually doing these things.” 

Interested in applying for the Youth Institute or helping out? Email them at or head to their website