Tell us about yourself and your position at YESS.
My name is D’orjay Jackson. I am a Black, queer, gender non-conforming Shaman, country music singer/songwriter, and the Programming Coordinator at YESS. I have been practicing energy medicine for almost 15 years and I am a full mesa carrying Shaman (Munay Ki), Pranic Healer, and I am a Buddhist Practitioner of Rimay tradition within the Vajrayana lineage and carry forward empowerments bestowed upon me by my Guru into my healing and creative practices.
I started volunteering with YESS in 2017 at events and then shifted to offering my Shamanic services to the youth through volunteer programming and have now transitioned to being employed at YESS in the role of Programming Coordinator.
I am responsible for organizing recreational programming as well as cultural programming and supports, so anything from going swimming to connecting with an elder to learn traditional practices, I am the person that organizes and facilitates that. I also do things like navigate other volunteers that want to come and provide services here (like I used to do!), so organizing them, setting up the logistics, and communicating the programming to the staff and the youth. For example, coming up we have a weekly yoga class starting in October, or our pet therapy friends who bring in different animals to connect with the youth every month. I am currently working on setting up regular music programming and some other fun things! I am the one who builds the ARC rec calendar!
I also work actively with building partnerships and connections with other agencies that work with at-risk youth in the city. I am on the steering committees for YEG Youth Connect and A4 Youth Convention and I also meet with and collaborate with other agencies to work on programming together to create more opportunities for the youth to be in community with each other across the city! I just met with Treaty 8 Urban Youth Agency and we are planning a joint ribbon skirt making class for November!
I provide one-on-one services to the youth here as well so they can access me for mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness support, which can be tailored to what the youth’s needs are in that moment. Sometimes we might do a full shamanic session with a guided journey, other times it’s more dialogue-centered while utilizing divination and writing tools, or teaching the youth about how our brains, bodies, and souls all work together, and supporting them with new tools to be in right relationship with those aspects of themselves. Other times as goals and dream arise in a session, that can turn into me supporting them by helping with connecting to them to other resources we or other agencies provide, helping them in artistic projects (even assisting in writing and applying for grants for said artistic projects) or maybe even just sending an email on their behalf because they are struggling that day, or driving them to an appointment so they are not alone.
What does it mean to “meet youth where they are at”? How is this philosophy practiced in YESS programs?
To me, meeting youth where they are at means that we are making sure we are creating space for them to feel autonomous, and as much as possible it means following their lead and really making sure that we are working hard at setting down any subconscious and conscious bias that we have around what our youth are experiencing (marginalized intersections of identity, addiction, houselessness, gang activity, violence, and other traumas). Meeting them where they’re at is also understanding that we don’t always know what is best for the youth and ensuring we are creating space to empower them to guide us to what is best for them and then do everything we can to support them to self-actualization. How I apply that at YESS with the youth is being inquisitive and as disarming as possible (sometimes sugar is a great icebreaker!) and seeing how they might feel best supported in that moment. Sometimes they just need to come and have some quiet time in my office or playing a game of pool with them, connecting them with some fun little gemstones and rocks, helping them build a medicine bundle for themselves, or walking them through a guided meditation or breathing exercises. Sometimes just kind of shooting the breeze with them and sharing a joke for a few minutes is all it takes for them to feel seen and valued. Whatever it is, I let them LEAD!
What is something you wish the community knew about youth who access YESS?
I wish the community knew that the youth who access YESS belong and that they are just as important a part of our community as anyone else! I think for me specifically, what I see so much of that I can’t wait to help educate the community on, is how many incredible creative beings we have here! There’s so much talent here raw and refined alike that I just feel is not being showcased fully yet, and so definitely a big goal I have while I’m working here is to share that!