Get Certified in the Pongo Method!

Get Certified in the Pongo Method!


After nearly three decades of leading healing youth poetry programming in the Seattle area, Pongo is ready to share our tried-and-true techniques with educators, clinicians, and community leaders from across the country. Are you:

  • A teacher looking for innovative ways to support the mental and emotional well-being of your students?
  • A therapist searching for additional strategies to encourage self-discovery and expression in your clients?
  • A program leader seeking ways of providing youth the opportunity to be heard, have their words valued, and experience creative joy?

Then Pongo’s certification pilot program is just for you!

Pongo’s certification pilot program – launching this spring – will empower YOU with the tools and support to create new poetry writing projects using our proven, trauma-informed poetry writing methodology. Together, we will create a national network of Pongo-inspired poetry writing projects, supporting youth who have experienced trauma across the country.

Pongo Certification: The Details

March 6, 2023: Applications for the certification pilot program are live! Follow this link to complete your application.  

March 31, 2023: Due date for all certification applications.

End of April 2023: Application decisions are announced.  

May 2023: Attending an Ignite Pongo training is a prerequisite for certification. If you have yet to do so, attending our spring Ignite Pongo training is your opportunity to satisfy this requirement.

May 31, 2023: Annual certification enrollment fee is due.

June 2, 2023: Attend our certification orientation! More details will be provided upon acceptance into our certification program.

The Pongo Method: Dispatches from the Field

Over the years, local, regional, and national program providers have received Pongo training and used the Pongo method to inspire healing and growth among the people they serve. Here’s what they have to say about the transformative power of Pongo Poetry writing.

Pongo’s certification and training program was an outgrowth of our success in facilitating poetry writing with youth. Based on that success, Pongo wanted to share our methodology to encourage the creation of writing projects based on our model.

Pongo has conducted trainings and encouraged the creation of Pongo-inspired projects since the 2014 release of Writing with At-Risk Youth: The Pongo Teen Writing Method, by our founder Richard Gold, which serves as our teaching textbook. The book, our trainings, and our certification program were created through a trauma-informed lens, with the support of child psychiatrists, expressive writing therapists, and academics. And the Pongo Method is designed to be accessible to anyone, regardless of their educational background or professional experience.

Ignite Pongo is our day-long, community training on the Pongo Method. In this immersive training, attendees hone their skills as a Poetry Mentor, learn how to remove barriers to self-expression, and encourage honesty from survivors of difficult life experiences.

Ignite Pongo trainings are open to the public, with sliding scale pricing based on applicant need. Ignite Pongo trainings are held in the spring and fall of each year (usually May and October). Training dates are announced 2-3 months in advance.

Before you launch your certified Pongo project, you must complete an Ignite Pongo training. If you have yet to complete this, don’t worry! You can apply for certification before the March 31st due date and then attend the Ignite Pongo training in May 2023 to satisfy this requirement.

Please note, that the entry into Ignite Pongo requires a ticket purchase; your certification dues do not cover entry into an Ignite Pongo training.

The content of Ignite Pongo trainings has changed significantly over the years. For example, we’ve incorporated the role that racial trauma and white supremacy play in creating the challenges our youth writers face. Moving forward, we will continue to update our trainings to ensure that they’re informed by up-to-date research from the field of childhood trauma, best practices for youth programming, and are aligned with our anti-racist values.

Pongo does not currently offer continuing education credits (i.e., credits that people can accrue by attending classes/events in order to maintain licensure/certification in their professional fields). Pongo is exploring options for offering these credits, so stay tuned for updates on that in the future.

Absolutely! Our certification program and trainings focus exclusively on the Pongo method, and how to establish and maintain a trauma-informed poetry project.  

However, the trainings are open to, and have been attended by, people who incorporate the Pongo method into their existing work and/or programming. Therapists have attended Ignite Pongo to use the method as a complementary tool in their clinical practices; teachers have used the Pongo method as part of a larger creative writing unit for their students; and caseworkers have incorporated the Pongo method into programming for unhoused populations. In short, people take the Pongo method and adapt it to meet their clientele’s needs!

No! It is free to apply to Pongo’s certification program.

Applications for the 2024-2025 certification cohort are slated to open in March 2024.

Pongo has decided to follow a cohort model during this pilot year of our certification program (i.e., 2023-2024). If accepted, individuals will join the certification program together, and remain together for the duration of the year (through May 2024).

A cohort model will provide certified program leaders with a community experience, allowing participants to learn together and from one another, through our online Peer Learning Network and quarterly skill-building workshops. Pongo will assess the certification program and make any necessary adjustments towards the end of the first year.

Pongo will charge annual fees on a sliding scale for certification:

  • $100: for individuals unaffiliated with any organization
  • $250: for individuals working at a nonprofit with an annual budget of less than 500k
  • $400: for individuals working at a nonprofit with an annual budget over 500k, or at a for-profit organization

Payments are due on May 31, 2023.

The orientation is scheduled for June 2, 2023 from 9am-noon PST, and will take place virtually. During the orientation you will learn how to access the Pongo Peer Learning Network (our online collaborative learning community), schedule your consultation with Pongo staff, and use your Pongo program toolkit. A detailed agenda will be provided upon acceptance into the program.

A Lesson Plan Template, Project Lead Checklist, 10 Fill-in-the-blank activities, and an Evaluation Guide with Writer’s Release and Survey.

Pongo will provide templates and a structure for you to evaluate your program. Pongo will require all certified practitioners to:

  • Survey every youth writer on their program experience (template will be provided)
  • Share a curated selection of youth poems
  • Report results annually

Detailed instructions will be provided upon acceptance into our certification program.

Yes, all of our quarterly skill-building workshops are offered virtually so you can join from anywhere in the world! We will have 4 quarterly skill-building workshops each year, according to the schedule below:

  • Orientation & quarterly skill-building workshop 1*: Friday, June 2, 2023, 9am-noon PST
  • Quarterly skill-building workshop 2: Friday, September 8, 2023, 10am-noon PST
  • Quarterly skill-building workshop 3: Friday, December 1, 2023, 10am-noon PST
  • Quarterly skill-building workshop 4: Friday, March 1, 2024, 10am-noon PST

*The first skill-building workshop is three hours long because your certification orientation will occur during the same period. Subsequent skill-building workshops will be two hours in length. 

Examples of quarterly skill-building content*:

  • Refining the Taking Dictation Technique
  • Using and creating Fill-in-the-blank poems
  • When & how to utilize Improvisational Techniques
  • The value of Warm-up Writing Activities
  • How to facilitate a Group Poem
  • Managing challenges during workshops
  • Vicarious trauma and self-care for mentors

*Pongo cannot guarantee ALL of this content will be covered. Content will be decided based on feedback of certification participants. Final content decisions will be made by the Co-Executive Director, Programs.

Not at this time. In order to protect the privacy of the vulnerable youth at our partner sites, Pongo cannot provide our certification participants with observation access.

More Questions?

No problem! Email and we’ll be happy to answer your questions.

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