Pay it Forward icon 1Pay It Forward

Jade TillequotsAnnie Blackledge and Jade Tillequots


It is easy to stay focused on the negative of our experiences, but something I have found useful for myself and those around me is to use my experience to build community. Being 22 years old and living and surviving everything I have endured, I should be bitter. But I’m not. Instead, I work to improve my community on the Yakama Reservation by using my story. I pay it forward in my community, by enhancing the lives of not only youth in care, but all youth in my community. I have multiple jobs that allow me to help break down the walls youth often build up, including working as a Chapter Leader for The Mockingbird Society and as an administrative assistant at Sacred Road Ministries.

My motivation for doing this work is to make sure that nobody has to go through the same things that I went through as a youth. At Sacred Road Ministries, I work with youth that have similar experiences and culture as me. While some do not end up in the foster care system, my goal is to make every young person feel loved and feel like they belong in the community. Through my work, I am able to use my experience and story to assist other youth to feel supported and included in a community. I am able to be the person that youth feel connected to and they often come to me for support and a shoulder to cry on. One day, a young lady told me she had PTSD as a result of trauma she endured when she was younger. We talked and we cried while she shared her pain with me. I did not lead the conversation. Instead I listened and let her talk and say what she needed. This is the kind of mutual support I use to build my community on the Yakama Reservation.

Everyone has the ability to do this by letting their neighbors know that they are not alone. I challenge each of you to pay it forward by using your experience and your compassion to create community.