Pongo’s genesis can be traced back to San Francisco in the late 1970s, where our founder Richard Gold first began writing poetry with youth in crisis. Equipped with a belief in the transformative and healing power of poetry, Richard convened the first ever Pongo writing group at Orion Center in 1992. Based on the success of this initial writing program, Richard officially founded Pongo in 1995. Below are highlights from Pongo’s development over the years.
Richard Gold is hired at a special needs school in San Francisco, to write poetry with youth as part of an interdisciplinary treatment team. This experience informs Richard’s belief in the power of poetry writing to inspire healing from trauma.
Pongo’s inaugural writing group is formed in Seattle at the Orion Center for homeless youth.
Capitalizing on the success of these initial poetry programs, Richard Gold incorporates Pongo Poetry Project.
Pongo establishes its first flagship poetry mentorship program at the Children & Family Justice Center, King County’s juvenile detention facility.
Pongo establishes its second flagship poetry program at the Child Study & Treatment Center, Washington State’s only psychiatric hospital for youth.
Pongo grows, training new volunteers on its trauma-informed approach and hiring project leads to manage partnerships at its flagship program sites. Pongo partners with multiple organizations in the Seattle area, mentoring poetry with LGBTQ+ youth at Lambert House, incarcerated men at McNeil Island Corrections Center, foster care youth at Treehouse, and incarcerated women at Mission Creek Correctional Center.
Pongo codifies its trauma-informed poetry writing methodology in Writing with At-Risk Youth: The Pongo Teen Writing Method, the teaching text for its local, regional, and national training program.
Pongo grows to mentor poetry with residents of DESC’s 1811 Eastlake, a supportive housing facility for formerly unhoused adults with lived experience of severe substance abuse. A pilot study found a statistically significant reduction in alcohol cravings among writers after their Pongo experience.
Pongo outlines its strategic vision for impact through 2029: to become a best practice in the application of expressive arts to heal trauma in marginalized populations.
Richard Gold, founder and longtime Executive Director, retires in 2020 after 30+ years of sharing the healing power of poetry with youth and adults who have experienced trauma.
Barbara Green joins Pongo as Interim Executive Director, with over 35 years of nonprofit experience as an employee, Executive Director, founder, board member, and donor.
Pongo celebrates its 25th Anniversary. Milestones include: 20+ years of service at its two flagship program sites, 6,500 individuals served through poetry mentorship, and the inspiration of 95 poetry writing projects based on its trauma-informed approach.
Pongo expands to a third flagship site, partnering with You Grow Girl!, a Seattle-based nonprofit empowering girls and young women of color through comprehensive support services, career-focused mentoring, leadership development, and an array of behavioral health services