CHEER CHAMPION OF THE WEEK: JADE-HEATHER LEPOTOKISI!
This week’s CHEER Champion of the Week is Jade-Heather Lepotokisi, who is doing an awesome job as dual coordinator for Blackfeet Tribe’s Methamphetamine & Suicide Prevention Initiative (MSPI) and Domestic Violence Prevention Initiative (DVPI)! Jade-Heather is a Blackfeet descendant and an enrolled member of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes. CHEER provides technical assistance for every MSPI and DVPI program in the Billings Area alongside the Indian Health Service under a contract with the Rocky Mountain Tribal Epidemiology Center RMTEC. CHEER helps MSPI and DVPI programs create data measurement tools, design evaluation strategies, and complete their Local Data Collection Plans.
“I am a survivor of severe abuse and trauma and I share the same story as many of the people I work with,” Jade-Heather openly shares. “It’s easier to help individuals if you know where they’re coming from. I understand their struggles but can also help motivate them to overcome them and become successful in following their dreams and making positive changes. I am the result what can be achieved in Indian country by helping to build resiliency in Native people. Our traumas are only a chapter of stories but are not the entire book.”
For the MSPI, Jade-Heather created and facilitates year-long groups for at-risk middle and high school students with the focus of overcoming trauma and building resiliency in Native American youth. These students work weekly with elders from their community, who share traditional teachings and offer mental health support. Jade-Heather also works closely with the families of enrolled students and offers trauma-informed trainings for principals and teachers.
For the DVPI, Jade-Heather is helping to educate people of all ages. She trains facilitators on: the “Good Touch, Bad Touch” training booklets for Blackfeet Head Start (ages 3-5) and Browning Elementary School students (grades 2nd-3rd); a “Safe Dates” curriculum for middle and high school students; and a “Healthy Relationships” course for adults, a curriculum created by the Native Wellness Institute. The “Good Touch, Bad Touch” booklets teach children how to be mindful of their bodies and take control of uncomfortable situations. The “Safe Dates” curriculum focuses on adolescent dating abuse prevention and is part of a required course for all freshmen and sophomores at Browning High School. The DVPI has also established a referral system with the Blackfeet Tribal court system to help community members in regards to their domestic violence cases.
Jade-Heather is excited that both the MSPI and DVPI were successful in developing Memorandums of Agreement with the Browning Public School system and the Blackfeet Tribal Council. This allows the MSPI and DVPI to work openly with these two entities and allows them more access to the public schools, thus creating more outlets of learning for Native youth.
In addition to her job, Jade-Heather is pursuing a Master of Social work at Walla Walla University. She hopes to one day become a behavioral health therapist for Native youth. She is also the mother of 6, a role she balances with the help of a supportive spouse and time management skills. In her free time, Jade-Heather enjoys being a disc jockey on a country music show on her local radio station.
Congratulations, Jade-Heather, on your inspiring life journey, family, and career!