Detention Honors Pongo’s 20 Years of Service
On October 26, 2017, Pongo was honored with a Certificate of Achievement Award for “exceptional volunteer service” in Seattle’s juvenile detention center. Pongo was among the first group of volunteers to be recognized at the annual ceremony of the King County Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention.
In its 20 years of service inside juvenile detention, Pongo has worked with 1,742 youth in 2,382 individual sessions. We have worked with another 1,350 youth in small group sessions and performances. We have collected surveys from 900 detention youth with the following results: 100% enjoyed writing with Pongo, 99% were proud of their writing, 76% wrote about things they don’t normally talk about, 82% felt better after writing, and 93% expected to write more in the future. Of these youth, 40% had only written a little or not at all before Pongo.
Of course, the greatest significance for those of us at Pongo is the quality of the youth poetry, and the young people’s independent choice, given the Pongo opportunity, to write about terrible traumatic experiences and find healing. On a recent Pongo survey, one young man wrote: “I am amazing. I wrote about things I feel and things I think.” His poem was a beautiful expression of doubt and insecurity in the search for love.
Importantly, we have to say thanks. In juvenile detention and other institutional settings, Pongo could not do our healing work — certainly not do our healing work for 20 years — without the welcome and support of the administration and staff. We are particularly grateful to Pam Jones, the director of juvenile detention, who recognized the importance of addressing trauma in the detention youth and in the greater community. Other Pongo allies in detention have included Karen Kinch (volunteer coordinator), Lynn Valdez (supervisor), Jill Morrison (librarian), Stacy Vida (teacher), and Thomas Morrow (teacher), among many others.
The detention youth and the Pongo volunteer writing mentors have further honored us with their trust and creativity and, especially, their willingness to speak from their hearts.