Staff & Board

Staff

What’s your role at Pongo?

As Interim Executive Director, I’m responsible for Pongo’s financial and operational oversight, developing our organizational infrastructure, and assisting in the recruitment and hiring of our permanent Executive Director. Having served as Interim Executive Director at organizations both large and small over the last 25 years, I consider it a privilege to work with so many people who are committed to making the world a better place.

Why does Pongo matter to you?

Pongo matters to me because many youth, particularly black and brown youth, have experienced both systemic and personal trauma that has negatively impacted their ability to make healthy choices. Writing personal poetry inspires youth to change their lives.

What/who is your favorite poem and/or poet?

My longtime favorite poet has been Maya Angelou. My new favorite poet is Amanda Gorman.

 

What’s your role at Pongo?  

As Program Manager, I oversee our youth poetry mentorship programming, Pongo Methodology trainings, book publishing, and community outreach.

Why does Pongo matter to you?

Pongo matters to me because I believe writing is not only an incredible tool for healing, but also an incredible tool for collective liberation. I know that through centering writing young people can create change in their lives.

What/who is your favorite poem and/or poet?

My favorite poem is “Cathedral Kitsch” by Tracy K Smith. When a loved one passes, I make it a point to dedicate a poem to them and this poem has significant meaning to me for that reason.

What’s your role at Pongo?  

As Development Manager, I’m responsible for our individual and institutional donor portfolios, communications outreach, event planning efforts, and working with our Executive Director to create and implement our overall fundraising strategy. Having the opportunity to leverage my development skills to secure the resources to help Pongo deliver on our vital mission is incredibly fulfilling work.

Why does Pongo matter to you?

The youth we serve are dealing with compounding interpersonal and systemic inequities, the foundations of which are often unaddressed trauma. By offering an effective, empathetic, and healing intervention, Pongo plays a crucial role in advancing social justice. 

What/who is your favorite poem and/or poet?

“Never to Forget,” a poem by Arundhati Roy from her essay collection, The End of Imagination.

 

What’s your role at Pongo?  

As Pongo’s Intern, I’m involved in all aspects of our work including supporting program implementation, workshops, assisting in community outreach, and developing our social media presence. I’m currently a student at the University of Washington and joined Pongo through the Undergraduate Community Based Internship program.

Why does Pongo matter to you?

Pongo matters to me because of its groundbreaking therapeutic approach to allow young people the opportunity to write their thoughts down without judgment. I believe that introducing the Pongo Method can facilitate lasting impact in growth plans for struggling teens, and help heal their past wounds to give them the strength to carry on. And what is more heartwarming to see in action than that?

What/who is your favorite poem and/or poet?

When I was 8 years old, my mom gave me a book composed of poems from Shel Silverstein, entitled Where the Sidewalk Ends, and ever since then he has been my favorite poet. His embedding of wacky sketches and illustration always made his work really stand out to me as a child being introduced to the world of poetry for the first time. Therefore, Shel Silverstein’s poems have a special place in my heart.

What’s your role at Pongo?

As Pongo’s Child Study and Treatment Center (CSTC) Project Lead, I’m responsible for planning and leading weekly poetry writing workshops for youth at the hospital. Pongo and CSTC hold a special place in my heart because I served as a Pongo mentor from 2013-2017 while employed as a Recreation Therapist at CSTC.

Why does Pongo matter to you?

The work Pongo does is important because of the positive impact it has on individuals and their community. I’ve witnessed a youth’s self-confidence increase after writing a poem about a difficult time in their life. When a youth is empowered to write about challenges they’ve experienced and feel safe enough to share their poem with others, it brings them closer to their treatment team, friends, and family.

What/who is your favorite poem and/or poet?

Asking me to pick a favorite poem or poet is like asking me to shoot an arrow at a moving target, it’s always changing! At the moment, I’m vibing with Tonya Ingram. I especially like her poem, “How to Invite Yourself to Fall in Love Again,” from her collection, How to Survive Today.

Board of Directors

What do you do for work?

I am a consultant to nonprofits, mostly in the Pacific Northwest. The focus of my work is strategic planning and facilitating conversations around organizational identity and plans for the future.

Why does Pongo matter to you?

Everyone who comes in contact with Pongo has the chance to witness authentic personal expression and that, to me, is the most profound thing about being human.

What/who is your favorite poem and/or poet?

I can’t stop reading Ada Limón. I find her poems to be fierce, true and exquisite. I keep The Carrying by my bedside.

What do you do for work?

I’ve taught Literature and Creative Writing at various institutions of higher learning for over forty years, primarily at Seattle Pacific University. As a writer I have published articles in numerous journals, produced three volumes of prose, and edited an anthology.

Why does Pongo matter to you?

Pongo has been a deep inspiration to me because of the way it helps the disenfranchised to find and claim a voice for themselves in a new and powerful way.  There’s something about the way their poems sit on the page so that the words gain emphasis and clarity – they mean something. They speak the truth.

What/who is your favorite poem and/or poet?

Too many!  William Blake changed my life many decades ago – check out his epic “Jerusalem.”  T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets.  James Wright.  The Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.  The list goes on.

What do you do for work?

I am the Events & Sponsorships Manager for Washington State Opportunity Scholarship, a non-profit serving minority students pursuing careers in STEM. I’ve also performed as a musician since 2007 and continue to do so when and where I can.

Why does Pongo matter to you?

I’m a passionate advocate for healing through expression of any kind. Similarly, to music, the power and potential of Pongo is unmistakable. Crossing cultures and borders, it requires that we tap into a universal feature of the human experience – ourselves.

What/who is your favorite poem and/or poet?

Still I Rise by the great Maya Angelou. Her unshakeable calm, confidence and courage is something I’ll always admire and revere.

What do you do for work?

I am a Program Associate for the Abe Fellowship Program at the Social Science Research Council, where I primarily support the work of researchers seeking to produce comparative, policy-relevant research on contemporary issues in the U.S and Japan.

Why does Pongo matter to you?

Pongo matters to me because I see Pongo’s programs as an avenue for providing an under-served population with access to a level of care and therapy that would be otherwise unattainable.

What/who is your favorite poem and/or poet?

My favorite poet is the Sudanese – American writer Dalia Elhassan, particularly her chapbook In Half Light.

What do you do for work?

I work as a Communications Manager and Operations Specialist with Autodesk’s Security team. I began my career, however, in literary publishing and have a decade of editorial and production experience with publishing houses both large and small. My recent career pivot has allowed me to focus on strategy development and executive communications for a mission-driven company I love, while affording me time to volunteer with various organizations and offer pro-bono editorial services to individuals and nonprofits in the PNW.  

Why does Pongo matter to you?

Poetry was my first passion and remains an integral part of my life and well-being today, and I am a firm believer in the healing powers of writing. I love that Pongo shares this understanding and has created an invaluable program to provide an expressive outlet, and by extension form of mental health care, to underserved groups.

What/who is your favorite poem and/or poet?

So many! I love Claudia Rankine, Michael and Matthew Dickman, Cynthia Cruz, Danez Smith, Joshua Bennett, Sharon Olds—the list is endless! I have an especially soft spot for poets who are able to weave beautiful language around ugly experiences.

 

What do you do for work?

I am a clinical social worker and substance use disorder professional. I provide therapy to teens and adults struggling with depression, anxiety, PTSD, disordered eating, substance use, OCD, and personality disorders. I’ve spent my career listening to people’s stories. It is a true honor to show up every day and provide support and solutions that align with a person’s life worth living goals.

Why does Pongo matter to you?

Pongo takes a method that we clinicians use – narrative therapy – and creates a more accessible method that is expressive and empowering. We know that trauma robs youth of their story. By encouraging them to share their stories in poetry, we are allowing them to take their story back. It is such a simple and impactful method that is universally understood. I use the Pongo method with my clients and loved ones. I can’t think of a better organization to be a part of!

What/who is your favorite poem and/or poet?

My favorite poet and author is Maya Angelou for her ability to express herself so openly. I also love her ability to be hopeful and yet very matter of fact in her writing.

What do you do for work?

I am a physician/teacher with the University of Washington School of Medicine and Seattle Children’s Hospital. For over 30 years I have served at the Child Study and Treatment Center (one of Pongo’s flagship program sites), where I’m the attending psychiatrist on the young teen unit. I’m also a clinician with the UW Healthcare for Homeless Youth and King County’s Children & Family Justice Center (another Pongo flagship program site).  

Why does Pongo matter to you?

The writings of youth, from Pongo poetry sessions, exemplify some of the most treasured bridges between young souls and their hoped-for worlds. Quite simply, their Pongo mentor-supported writings illuminate the possibilities for young people striving to grow beyond their isolation and pain into more fulfilling, connected and optimistic lives.

What/who is your favorite poem and/or poet?

Dang, that is a hard question to answer. If I close my eyes for a bit I can see dozens and dozens and dozens of young writers and their poems. Beyond that I certainly have to point to Shel Silverstein’s “Invitation” (in Where the Sidewalk Ends). My most important recurring moment with a poem is in Tracy Chapman’s “Bang, Bang, Bang” as her voice breaks in the last stanza.

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