Staff & Board

Staff

What’s your role at Pongo?

In my role as Co-Executive Director, Programs I’m responsible for Pongo’s programs, expansion, and the implementation of our mission.  In addition, I work closely with Nebeu, our Co-Executive Director, Development & Finance. Pongo holds a special place in my heart because I served as a poetry mentor from 2013-2017 while employed as a Recreation Therapist at the Child Study & Treatment Center; one of Pongo’s flagship program sites.  

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.

What’s your role at Pongo?  

In my role as Co-Executive Director, Development & Finance, I’m responsible for Pongo’s development, finance, operations, and the implementation of our mission. In addition, I work closely with Ashley, our Co-Executive Director, Programs. Having the opportunity to leverage my development experience to secure the resources to help Pongo grow, and 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?

My role is Project Lead at the Children and Family Justice Center (i.e., King County Juvenile Detention) in Seattle. I manage a team of volunteer poets who mentor incarcerated youth on a weekly basis as they write poetry to inspire healing and growth.

Why does Pongo matter to you?

Poet June Jordan proclaims, “My heart is not peripheral to me.” At each session, Pongo mentors encourage youth to “write from your heart,” acknowledging and caring for each young poet’s heart.

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

“Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden.

What’s your role at Pongo?

In my role as Project Lead at the Child Study and Treatment Center (CSTC), Washington’s only state-operated and funded psychiatric hospital for children and youth, I am responsible for leading a group of poetry mentors. Each week, using the Pongo method, we assist traumatized youth in writing poetry from the heart to help them heal and grow.

Why does Pongo matter to you?

It’s hard for me to imagine something more beautiful and urgent in today’s world than a program that helps some of the most vulnerable future adults find poetry in themselves – poetry that defies the limits to which the world of their traumas attempted to confine them; poetry that provides a unique language for speaking about the unspeakable; poetry that accommodates their complicated stories and invites a reexamination of these stories and their ways of coping; poetry that encourages the youth to mold new, hopeful identity narratives and find their own voice; poetry that is therapy without implicit pathologizing; poetry that helps build bridges of understanding and communities of compassion; poetry that often illuminates – for the youth and the witnessing world – an inner beauty and potential waiting to be explored and developed.

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

That’s a difficult question to answer for me! Reading poetry, I believe, is like deeply listening to someone in a special mode of communication. There are so many poets that have had so many interesting, poignant things to say in so many interesting, poignant ways. And I have so much more listening to do! In Pongo’s context, though, the poem “Kindness” by Naomi Shihab Nye jumps out at me, especially the lines:

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

Board of Directors

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 the Donor Organizing Manager at the Social Justice Fund. One of the things that excites me most about SJF is the regional community that we serve. Having grown up in Eastern Washington, I always felt like folks who didn’t live in urban environments were forgotten or disregarded by social justice movements. I love that at SJF we not only acknowledge and celebrate the amazing people organizing in rural communities, but that we actively find ways to resource these movements.

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 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 am the Executive Director – Finance & Operations at The Sophia Way. We are a nonprofit organization that serves women experiencing homelessness in King County. The Sophia Way adopted a shared leadership model in 2021, making it possible for me to collaborate with two other Executive Directors as we tackle the ongoing homelessness crisis.

Why does Pongo matter to you?

I was fortunate enough to grow up in a community that centered art and honoring self-expression. I saw first-hand how access to the arts, including poetry can transform lives and heal trauma. As a teenager, I experienced some of the same difficult circumstances that the young people in Pongo programs are navigating. Being able to offer any support to this amazing organization and our community members experiencing trauma is deeply meaningful to me. 

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

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
     Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

– Omar Khayyam 

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?

By day, I’m a tech writer and editor. By night (by always?), I moonlight as an arts/book critic, as a global health writer, and I teach writing classes at Seattle’s Hugo House. I also have years of book publishing experience, and have worked for a variety of publishing houses, both big and small. I have a bachelor’s in art, an MFA in creative writing, and one book and many articles to my name.

Why does Pongo matter to you?

Because poetry is amazing, and because too few people read it. I know personally how much poetry can help one make sense of the world, and how it can help people deal with trauma.

To quote George Oppen’s “Of Being Numerous”:

Clarity, clarity, surely clarity is the most beautiful
thing in the world,
A limited, limiting clarity

I have not and never did have any motive of poetry
But to achieve clarity

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

This is an impossible question! If I had to name one poet & one poem, I’d say Larry Levis’s long poem, “The Widening Spell of the Leaves.”

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?

After a long career in health care administration, I am currently working as a small business consultant. I primarily provide guidance in the areas of operations, human resources, and finance. My primary goal is to gather as much information as possible, then help the client act on that data to drive business improvement. I focus on breaking down processes to improve operational efficiency and strongly believe that investing in people is critical to business success. 

In addition, I’m especially passionate about women’s health issues and emphasizing preventive measures to improve community health outcomes. I’m also a life-long runner, aspiring poet, optimistic gardener, wayward traveler, and unconditional dog-lover.

Why does Pongo matter to you?

I believe in the impact of the Pongo method and the role that poetry can play in healing from trauma and mental illness. The need is greater than ever to find creative, innovative ways to reach vulnerable youth in a variety of settings. I am excited to watch the organization grow!

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

I appreciate the work of so many; in particular Claudia Rankine, Margaret Atwood, and Rupi Kaur for their brave and bold expression of difficult subject matter; and Mary Oliver for Dog Songs, which reminds me that poems can also bring joy and relief.

 

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’m an Associate Professor of English at Belmont University in Nashville. I teach Shakespeare and social justice, and my research focuses on how literary texts bring people together.

Why does Pongo matter to you?

Writing has the power to heal us. I sometimes teach in prisons, and nearly all of my students have writing projects outside of the class that help them process their experiences.

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

Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Gate A-4” always brings me a lot of comfort. I turn to it whenever I need to be reminded of how the small things that bring us together are more powerful than the big things that drive us apart.

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