Pongo Poetry Mentors volunteer their time to work with youth in writing heartfelt, personal poetry. As a Pongo mentor, you will help youth write about their difficult experiences; and you will experience writing that is sometimes sad, but also a source of excitement, pride, and healing for the youth. Our volunteers find the work touching, enlightening, and enlivening — and a benefit to their careers in counseling, teaching, and community service. Empowered by their time with us, Pongo volunteers have gone on to start their own poetry projects.
As a Pongo Poetry Mentor, you will be trained in Pongo’s techniques for teaching poetry writing to distressed teens in service of inspiring their healing and growth. You will be well supported and work with a close-knit, collaborative team of 3 to 4 others under the direction of an experienced Pongo Project Leader.
Because a large percentage of youth we write with are BIPOC, Pongo seeks to have a diverse team of Poetry Mentors. We know from experience that BIPOC youth are excited to see Poetry Mentors who look like them. For a powerful example, listen to Amani Sawari share her experience of volunteering with Pongo at our King County Juvenile Detention project site.
While Pongo poetry sites meet at different times, each weekly session is around 3 hours and consists of the following:
Mentors check-in, create writing activities, review/hone Pongo techniques, and share personal poems and relevant published pieces.
Sessions begin with a warm up writing exercise in the form of a group poem. Then mentors are paired with youth, one-on-one, to create personal poetry. Teens may change from week to week, depending on the poetry site.
Mentors check-in, type up and send copies of youth poems, and receive poetry writing prompts or activity creation assignments as “homework.”
Pongo operates its poetry mentorship projects on an in-person basis in the Seattle/Tacoma area. Typically, mentor teams are formed in August, orientations occur in September, and projects run from September to June. However, volunteers are encouraged to apply year around in case positions open up. To apply:
If invited into the interview process after we’ve reviewed your documents, you can expect one interview with Ashley. In addition, Pongo’s poetry mentorship sites require background checks of all outside visitors. If selected, prospective mentors must be willing to complete a background check before working with youth.
If you are interested in this work, but not available to volunteer with Pongo right now please send us an email explaining your future interest. We will put you on our email list and follow up regarding future involvement.