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?

As Interim Program Manager, I support programming at our core project sites, as well as Pongo’s Well-Versed and Certification Programs.

Why does Pongo matter to you?

Pongo has been formative in both my professional and my personal life—I was first trained in the Pongo method when I was still a student at Seattle University, and between 2010-2016, I worked with Pongo and Pongo-inspired projects around Seattle. Then and now, I’ve been so grateful to witness the positive impact of Pongo’s work, and I continue to admire Pongo’s adaptability, integrity, and vision.

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

A poem that has always stayed with me is Eavan Boland’s “Ann Liffey” (In A Time of Violence, 1994), which ends:

Consider rivers.
They are always en route to
their own nothingness. From the first moment
They are going home. And so
when language cannot do it for us,
Cannot make us know love will not diminish us,
There are these phrases
Of the ocean to console us.
Particular and unafraid of their completion.
In the end
Everything that burdened and distinguished me
Will be lost in this:
I was a voice.

What’s your role at Pongo?

I am so excited to be transitioning from my role as a volunteer mentor with Pongo to Project Lead at the Echo Glen Children’s Center this year! In this capacity I will lead a wonderful team of Pongo mentors to facilitate healing through poetry with the youth at Echo Glen. I’m grateful that this new role allows me to deepen my relationship with Pongo by taking on new responsibilities and supporting Pongo’s overall mission, while continuing to work one-on-one with youth.

Why does Pongo matter to you?

I am currently studying Health Counseling and Psychology at Antioch University Seattle with the goal of becoming a youth and family therapist specializing in complex trauma and suicidality. Pongo matters to me because I believe it creates unique opportunities for youth who have often severe, complex trauma and compounded existential grief to explore self-expression and meaningful connections with caring adults. I have been deeply moved by the emphasis Pongo’s methodology places on consent, attunement, and honoring the agency of the youth we work with. I believe these qualities are necessary for all long-term healing, and particularly for young people who have been impacted by systemic injustice.

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

Whenever I ask people “favorites” questions I always add “just for right now, you can always change your mind.” So, for right now my favorite poem is “Letter to the Local Police” by June Jordan. You can read it here.

What’s your role at Pongo?

As Project Lead at the Clark Children and Family Justice Center (CCFJC), I am part of a team who uses the Pongo method to sit alongside youth as they explore writing poetry. We create a safe space and a generative process for children to reflect and express the beautiful and challenging things they carry in their hearts.

Why does Pongo matter to you?

Everyone deserves to feel a sense of belonging. Youth feel seen, heard and valued when they have a chance to share their life experiences. It’s empowering for youth to speak their truth openly and honestly. And, it’s so important for those of us lucky enough to hear or read their poems to get a small glimpse into the complex stories and souls of young people bravely battling forward on a healing journey.

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

A poet who has been a transformative teacher in my life is Gwendolyn Brooks. Her words have inspired and re-inspired me to stay committed, connected and accountable to all others through practicing hope and centering love. These words, hers, are my best-loved at the moment:

“…we are each other’s
harvest:
we are each other’s
business:
we are each other’s
magnitude and bond.”

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.

What’s your role at Pongo?

I am Pongo’s spring 2024 intern via the University of Washington’s Undergraduate Community Based Internship program. I’m excited to continue learning Pongo’s methodology, assist in ongoing projects, learn more about the nonprofit field and future career opportunities, and develop my professional skills.

Why does Pongo matter to you?

Pongo matters to me because I’ve experienced how transformative poetry can be. Poetry can touch areas of the heart other modes may have difficulty reaching. This project plays such a fundamental role in providing space for systems-impacted youth to heal and reflect and I’m grateful to be a part of it.

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

At the moment, my favorite poem is Paradise by James Baldwin, but I have many other favorites. I love poetry that pulls you into different worlds and memories. Some of my favorite poets include Ocean Vuong, Mahmoud Darwish, and Audre Lorde.

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 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’m the founder of The Third Layer, where I speak about, teach and facilitate how to grow more creativity in ourselves, each other, and the world. I’ve been a writer, journalist, editorial director and author (Explore Every Day, Lonely Planet, et al) for over 20 years, but my first career was in Deaf education.

Why does Pongo matter to you?

As a former Pongo mentor at CSTC for three years, I’ve seen firsthand how much healing, growth and self-acceptance can happen in this work. And as a writer and teacher, I know how powerful the opportunity to express yourself is — especially when coping with trauma. In fact, when the kiddos are writing, the poem sometimes takes on this almost magical quality. It’s like the very paper itself gently holds all strong emotions or difficult memories. I believe gifts like the Pongo process — celebrating and bearing witness to another’s creative self-expression, without judgment or expectations — is one of the most important things we can give kids (and adults, too!).

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

I love reading Ralph Waldo Emerson, Rilke, Goethe, Gwendolyn Brooks, Maya Angelou, Billy Collins, Naomi Shihab Nye — all very different, I know! My favorite poem of all time is Sherman Alexie’s narrative Pachyderm, an emotional gut-punch of pure beauty.

What do you do for work?

I am a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Seattle Children’s Hospital. My primary clinical interests are emergency psychiatry, consult and liaison psychiatry, and culturally informed care. I am also in the process of developing a clinical pathway at Seattle Children’s Hospital for Native American patients and their families in need of mental health services within the WWAMI region (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho).

Why does Pongo matter to you?

As a youth, I felt that poetry was a major component of my ability to process my own adverse experiences growing up in rural Montana. This very personal connection is what ultimately drives me support a program such as Pongo that provides this same opportunity for underserved and at-risk youth to learn the power of poetic expression.

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

The love letters that Pablo Neruda wrote to all aspects of his life called to me as a young girl, naïve and enamored with the concept of love which has since matured and become more nuanced with age, just as his poems have on multiple revisits over the years.

Entrance of the Rivers

by Pablo Neruda

Beloved of the rivers, beset
By azure water and transparent drops,
Like a tree of veins your spectre
Of dark goddess biting apples:
And then awakening naked
To be tattooed by the rivers,
And in the wet heights your head
Filled the world with new dew.
Water rose to your waist,
You are made of wellsprings
And lakes shone on your forehead.
From your sources of density you drew
Water like vital tears
And hauled the riverbeds to the sand
Across the planetary night,
Crossing rough, dilated stone,
Breaking down on the way
All the salt of geology,
Cutting through forests of compact walls
Dislodging the muscles of quartz.

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?

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.

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