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. Having started as a volunteer Pongo poetry mentor in 2007, serving as Program Manager is a responsibility I’m especially passionate about.

Why does Pongo matter to you?

Since 2007 when I first started volunteering with Pongo, the Pongo method has framed how I have related to people, especially my students. As a Poetry-trained educator, I approach youth with a listening ear and a gentle curiosity that catalyzes their creativity in a way that makes beautiful and authentic art that bears witness to youth resilience.

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

Though Hanif Abdurraqib, Danez Smith, and Eve L. Ewing are three of my recent favorites, I must pay homage to William Blake as the poet whose beckoning from beyond I heeded when I read the opening lines of his poem Auguries of Innocence:

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wildflower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour

Each poem I facilitate with a young person through the Pongo method, each poem I read in one of our books, is that grain of sand, that heaven in a wildflower–a vision of the infinite potential housed in each of us, juxtaposed the frustratingly finite nature of our existence evidenced in the next line:

A Robin Red breast in a Cage
Puts all Heaven in a Rage

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 Intern, I’m involved in all aspects of Pongo’s work including supporting program implementation, 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. My personal passion for healing through writing is what excites me about being a part of Pongo.

Why does Pongo matter to you?

Pongo matters to me because I value the strength of healing through poetry. I have personally used poetry to work through hardship and struggle, as well as joy and triumph. Through my experience I want to share the magic of writing. I love working with the bright youth and community involved with Pongo and aspire to help this organization, and people involved in it, grow!

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

My favorite poet is Rudy Francisco. He is a spoken word poet who writes with complete vulnerability and honestly. His poems often tell a story, and he shares his thoughts and feelings in a rhythmic way. I love listening to his work because he writes in a way that is relatable and visual, resulting in a beautiful piece of art. 

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 an intellectual property attorney at Kilpatrick Townsend & Stockton LLP. My practice is focused on trademark and copyright protection and enforcement within the media, entertainment, and gaming industries.

Why does Pongo matter to you?

I’m passionate about Pongo’s mission to provide an outlet for underserved and marginalized communities to process traumatic experiences while building comradery.

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

Nikki Giovanni.

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 Relations Manager at Powerful Voices and a Development and Publishing Fellow at the Kore Press Institute. In these roles, I support our donor engagement efforts and the execution of our fund development plan. My work helps strengthen relationships with existing and new community stakeholders and donors. I’m also a full-time student at Seattle Central College majoring in History, and I will be transferring to a four-year university this fall.

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 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 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.