Teachers Resources

Pongo Methodology

For an in-depth look into our evidence-based, trauma-informed approach, we encourage you to purchase Writing With At-Risk Youth: The Pongo Teen Writing Method

This book is designed to give you a comprehensive overview of the impact of childhood trauma, how to start a writing project, and best practices for program implementation. The book also offers guidance on Pongo poetry facilitation techniques, how to create writing activities, and how to make programming safe and confidential for youth participants.

To get a better sense of the form and structure of Pongo writing activities, please check out the writing activities section of our website.

To consult with Pongo, schedule future trainings, or learn more about our approach contact ashley@pongopoetryproject.org

Pongo Theory of Change

Theory of Change - Web

Pongo’s Theory of Change model illustrates how our program facilitates and produces positive change among youth who have experienced trauma. In particular, the Theory of Change communicates the experiences that Pongo youth writers have through our program, and the benefits of those activities. Lastly, the Theory of Change model connects Pongo’s programming to well-evidenced constructs within the fields of applied developmental psychology and youth programming, that are critical factors in promoting positive change among youth who have experienced trauma.

Below are the definitions to key terms referenced within the Theory of Change model:

Agency: This refers to one’s experience of their ability to exert control and action upon their own life. Research has consistently demonstrated that resilience is significantly diminished among youth who have experienced trauma. Improving a young person’s sense of agency is linked to an enhanced sense of well-being. (Cantor et al. 2018)

Resilience: “A class of phenomena characterized by good outcomes in spite of serious threats to adaptation and development.” (pg. 228, Masten 2001) Research shows that youth who have been exposed to trauma have the capacity to cultivate the specific forms of resilient thinking and behaviors most relevant to their needs and circumstances.

Self-esteem: This refers to one’s feeling that they are both worthy and competent in their lives. (Mruk, 2013) Research demonstrates that having a positive sense of self-esteem can do the following: 1) remedy the negative consequences resulting from childhood trauma and 2) better position young people to exhibit resiliency in their lives.

Special thanks to Asia Moore, MSW, MA, and Kimberly Rishe, MA for their guidance, input, and leadership in developing Pongo’s Theory of Change model. Asia and Kimberly are experts in quantitative and qualitative research on public health, behavioral health, substance abuse, and positive youth development.

Pongo Methodology Testimonials

“Writing with At-Risk Youth: The Pongo Teen Writing Method” provides a roadmap for therapists, counselors, and teachers to help troubled adolescents transform their lives through poetry. Both wise and pragmatic, Pongo reminds us that healing is art; that listening, validation, and respect are core elements of therapeutic relationships; and that human connections underlie our most basic needs and our most rewarding experiences.

-Jack McClellan, MD

Medical Director, Child Study and Treatment Center
Professor, University of Washington School of Medicine

“Writing with At-Risk Youth: The Pongo Teen Writing Method” makes a wonderful contribution to our collective response to youth affected by trauma and hardship. Facing up to traumatic experiences and developing a new narrative is proven to work for recovery. Expressive writing is an amazingly powerful method of doing just that. This book helps youth to find their voice, learn their strengths, and give themselves hope for their future.

Lucy Berliner, MSW

Director, Harborview Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress
Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences
University of Washington School of Social Work

The Pongo Method is essentially a way for these young people—many with severe emotional problems and some who have been ensnared in the juvenile justice system—to learn to communicate and think about their life experience through poetry and storytelling. Many are able to reframe horrific experiences and put some closure around “issues” that they have held back from feeling and thinking about. Although the Pongo “process” is not therapy in a traditional sense, it represents the essential elements of the most effective treatments and does this through a modality that youth can engage in with honesty and trust.

-Eric W. Trupin, Ph.D.

Professor & Vice Chair, Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
University of Washington School of Medicine
Director, Division of Public Behavioral Health & Justice Policy

Support from Pongo

Pongo is available to help you get your trauma-informed writing project up and running. We offer consultation services for your writing projects and we can schedule trainings for your organization. Contact us at ashley@pongopoetryproject.org for more information.

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