From Participant to Staff: Jaydalen’s Inspiring Journey with Y-WE Grow

“I’ve just been exposed to how I want to be treated, what I want out of community, I feel like Y-WE has definitely set a high bar of standards.” 

Jaydalen Blossom, former participant & Y-WE Grow Intern

Y-WE Grow is our farming and food justice program that takes place at Marra Farm in Seattle’s South Park neighborhood near the Duwamish River. We grow fresh and culturally relevant produce that we give back to the community while learning about environmental justice. This year, Y-WE is thrilled to hire Jaydalen Blossom onto our staff as Y-WE Grow’s Intern! Jaydalen first encountered Y-WE as a youth participant in 2018 and was one of the first program participants to garden at Marra Farm in 2019. Now that she is a Y-WE Alum, she is stepping into her leadership in a new way. Learn more about Jaydalen’s Y-WE leadership journey, her values, and finding her “why” at Marra Farm. Welcome Jaydalen!

Jaydalen Blossom posing surrounded by house plants

Q: Tell me a little bit about you! Anything you want to share.

A: Well, ever since I was little I’ve always loved adventure. I think that’s just [part of] who I am. I like exploring and having an experience. And that kind of led me to this space, Y-WE, this interview that I’m doing for Y-WE. It’s a big part of my life. Though, a lot of times people in Y-WE and my family too, remind me that even though the space [at Y-WE] helped me, it’s not just the space, it’s who you are too. So I still want to give acknowledgement to the places and people that helped shape me, but also take the responsibility that I’ve done that work, too, of taking care of my body and everything in between.

I was unschooled for middle school, it’s a form of homeschooling. It’s kind of out there if you think homeschooling is already out there, unschooling is another layer to it. It’s just a way of learning, or I guess unlearning what society or the schooling system is. It’s like really detaching from the fast pace or expectations that you have to be somewhere on a specific age or the titles that we give everyone. So a lot of my middle school and high school aged years were just releasing and unlearning things, and implementing things that I want to do. Passion based. And that’s why I talked about Y-WE right away, because what Y-WE stands for has been a big passion of just, you know, creating equity and diversity in the world, and leaders and things that matter. I think that’s a big part of who I am. Connecting with all people from all walks of life. Learning from their stories, and connecting from our things that we enjoy. 

Q: To back up from the beginning, how did you come to Y-WE and what was your first experience like?

A: My dad was the one who showed it to me. He was like, Jaydalen, she’s young, she’s a woman, she likes empowerment. So, he just searched up “young women empowerment” and Y-WE popped up. And he was like, “is this real?” Because how can it just pop up so quickly? And so my first experience with Y-WE was Nature Connections in the Fall of 2018. I’ve always liked being outdoors. And that’s kind of just where it all started. I learned to not only connect with nature in a deep and meaningful way, finding that connection with myself in nature, but also with other people and other people that look like me, are different, and are not normally presented in outdoor spaces, which I didn’t quite see or didn’t know existed. I learned a lot about things in life that we normally don’t talk about. I was exposed to things that I didn’t know or hadn’t talked about before. 

Q: Outside of Nature Connections, have you done any other Y-WE programs?

A: I did Y-WE Lead, Create, and Write in 2019. I also attended Career Day in 2019. I also did YLC (Youth Leadership Council) in 2019-2020. And “Let’s Just Play” during the pandemic. And then in 2020 I started doing Y-WE Grow. I did the first few [cohorts] when it was called “Hands on the Land.”

Q: You did so much your first year! What have been some of your biggest takeaways from your time at Y-WE? How do you feel like these programs have impacted you?

A: Just the opportunities and resources that I’ve been exposed to the fact that I got to join this spring and help with Y-WE Grow, which I’ve been involved in for so long. This time, I get to be part of it in a different way. Yeah, I’ve just been exposed to how I want to be treated, what I want out of community, I feel like Y-WE has definitely set a high bar of standards. I’ve been exposed to mental wellness, mental health and wellness support, just being around that, [learning to] take care of your body and your mind and yourself.

I think also being able to speak, to be invited to speak. In the capitol, we went to talk to the lobbyists about funding. I also got to learn about Y-WE’s plan or behind the scenes with the people that work there. So not only getting to be a part of the programming, but also seeing the behind the scenes of how Y-WE exists. The people that are involved, the people that are important. Yeah, I guess learning how nonprofits work. And hearing different perspectives of how other nonprofits work. Also being exposed to resources. There was food support during the pandemic, so being able to have a community that can support with that.

Q: You’ve done so many different speaking opportunities at Y-WE. Is that something that you would have imagined yourself doing?

A: I feel ever since I was younger, I’ve always been that way. My mom told me that I would just always be in a corner pretending like I was a manager for something. It’s definitely felt like something that I’ve been pulled towards with the opportunities I’ve had offered to me. So yeah, I definitely learned a lot like through public speaking at Y-WE or just facilitation skills. 

Q: Y-WE often talks about being a community of belonging. What do you feel like that has meant to you or how have you seen that play out at Y-WE?

A: I guess interaction in programming, hearing people’s stories. One time during create, I remember, we had a “heart circle”, like to close off as the final day where people just let things out that were heavy on their hearts, or just the things they wanted to release. I think that created a big moment for me of like, “oh, this place is different.” These people really care about who you are. I cried for the people that were sharing. Because I felt their pain, I understood them. And I just felt for them. I think that was a big one for me.

Q: So, what made you want to be the Grow intern?

A: Just because I love what I’ve been exposed to at Marra Farm and the people that I’ve gotten close with, like Neli and Tayah. Neli actually started [working at Y-WE] the first year that I joined. And so, Neli’s kind of been my mentor, like, has known me since I first started. And I think that’s part of the big reason why. It just felt like a calling as well. I felt like I found my why here, being at Marra Farm, and the ways in which we learn. We do a lot of analogies with growing but also how we grow too. A lot of interconnected work. Just connecting ourselves to growing food and being able to do that and understand why we do things. We eat food, but like, what goes into it? So that’s something that I really enjoy about being at Marra Farm and why I wanted to [be an intern].

Q: Why is connecting to the land healing for you?

A: I think it’s important because it’s where we come from. I feel like a lot of cultures, a lot of indigenous cultures have always been connected. And I think it can be a beautiful way for others to reconnect, or find that connection, with their ancestors and how they connected to their land in a way that’s reciprocal. One thing that always reminds me why I enjoy connecting with the land and whenever I feel down, is how much the Earth has faced. When I feel sad, I know the Earth has felt that. The Earth has held wars and many, many tragic events, but also many beautiful ones. Like our evolution and how we’re evolving. The Earth has always stayed, and it has never left us. And that’s something that helps me feel less alone. The earth knows my pain. It physically does. I feel held by it. And also you only live once. So to make the most of your life, to really feel intentional and connected to the things around us, [it’s important] to disconnect from society and connect back with life and the Earth.

Q: You have such a bright future ahead of you. You’re such a leader, and you’ve already been making so many cool changes in Grow. Can you tell me a bit about your passions in environmental leadership?

A: The main thing [before we can focus on leadership], is taking care of our mental wellbeing. That’s the main thing I’ve been very passionate about lately, working on our mental health and our well being. I find through this environmental work, although I’m still quite new to this work and learning. But one thing that has stayed true throughout anything that I’m learning and doing is taking care of our minds. Like trauma work, or inner child work. All those things impact the ways we work and all aspects of our life. So I think that’s something that I’m passionate about is taking care of ourselves, which I’ve already repeated so many times, but it’s so true. And I think that’s something that I want to instill in this field of work. That’s something I’ve talked with Neli and Tayah about. I don’t know how it’s going to look yet but mindfulness, or even movement. 

Q: Neli and Tayah have been saying that it’s been really exciting to see the new ideas flowing and you taking charge at Grow. What are your dreams or goals for your role?

A: I think a big dream is helping others find connections through the land. I feel like we live in a very sick society. Sick meaning a lot of us are feeling anxious or sad, or sometimes just like, very disconnected from each other even. So my dream is to help others and find the connections with each other and most importantly, the land. And taking care of it. And through those mindful practices, I think that’s a big way to provide space where people can talk about feelings or just be really without the pressures of society.

Q: And what are your dreams for your future? You’re still really young, so you don’t have to have it all figured out, of course.

A: Just to find happiness, and find peace, in all aspects of my life. And I always have a why. Why I want to be here, a purpose. Because if you don’t know your why, the world will make it for you. You’ll be filled with other people’s whys instead of your own. That’s what causes things like things like white supremacy and capitalism. It stems from not finding your own why, it’s like other people’s why’s.

Also to create change in the world. Also, just taking care of me. Because everyone is interconnected in some ways. So just seeing how when you make a positive change within yourself, how that changes the world, and even how you view it. And I’ve learned that through growing food at Marra Farm, just really seeing that physical manifestation of that thought process. Because when you take care of the planet, and give it the love and make sure it has everything it needs in order to thrive, and then apply that to yourself, you can figure out what you need. And give yourself the love that you need in order to thrive.

Q: What are your dreams for young people? 

A: Learning to slow down, releasing the pressures of what we have to be or where we need to be. That’s a big dream that I have. I just don’t know exactly how it looks yet. Because the world is still changing and shifting. It’s not perfect, but my hope is that everyone can just really fully be themselves and accept if things are not okay to just be fully transparent with how they feel. Even if it’s not perfect. It’s releasing perfection.

Q: I really loved how you said “releasing perfection.” Could you say more about what that means?

A: I think it might be easier to think about it for ourselves, which is this idea of like, oh, I have to be perfect all the time. How it will pop up for me is I’ll feel sad, but then I’ll try to make up a reason for it or I’ll find a way to not feel it. So I just think releasing that aspect of perfection is like, “can it just be that I’m sad?” That’s it. I’m sad but I’m doing my best to figure this out. But it can even be with work, or just how we show up in spaces. I think practicing boundary setting, even with ourselves is what it starts with. 

Q: What are some practical ways that people can take better care of the earth?

A: I think it can get so overwhelming. And for me, it always goes back to like your mental health, because if you’re not well, like, if you haven’t felt that love for yourself, or come to that way of understanding that everything matters around you, you won’t be motivated to take care of anything else. It starts with appreciating yourself first. [Otherwise] you won’t be able to want to care for the Earth or for others, or do those things to show up. So I think normalizing seeking support with mental health and also finding communities. And that’s a tangible way that people can start getting into taking care of the earth, by taking care of themselves.

I guess for me, I’m talking from experience, like, yeah, I can do this and that x, y and z. But then I’m like, oh, there’s no why. There’s no [reason] why I’m doing it. Because it’s not coming from myself. And of course, you’re recycling and yeah, those are also helpful things [that are] impactful for the environment. But I think big, big changes come from within ourselves really.

Young Women Empowered (Y-WE) cultivates the power of diverse young women* to be creative leaders and courageous changemakers, through transformative programs within a collaborative community of belonging. Learn more about Y-WE Grow and our other environmental justice programming. Join our community by making a donation to support our work with youth today. 

Last updated December 11, 2023

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