A Classic Pongo Project

In this section we discuss the classic Pongo project. There are a number of wonderful variations on what we do, and you may create one. For example, you may run a group with the same teen members each week, and you may run projects that are 10-weeks long, rather than six months. But here is what we do...

The classic Pongo writing project consists of a team of five volunteers, who work as a team under an experienced leader. They work at a site, such as a juvenile detention center, for six months offering weekly writing sessions.

Pongo works with different youth every week, partly because of the turnover of population at the agencies at which we work, but also in order to introduce as many youth as possible to the method and power of personal writing.

We emphasize one-on-one work of a youth with an adult mentor, because it allows the most personal writing and potential for individual growth.

Our team of five adult writing mentors will pull five youth from a classroom to work with us. There are basically four parts to our writing session:

  1. Introduction (5-10 minutes)
  2. Group writing activity as warm-up (15-20 minutes)
  3. One-on-one writing of youth with mentors (30-45 minutes)
  4. Group sharing at end (10-20 minutes)

If our time with the youth is short (50 minutes or less), we will eliminate the warm-up (#2) in order to preserve time for the one-on-one work.

The introduction (#1) is used to communicate Pongo's intention and set a tone of emotional openness. Read the sections of this web site about Pongo's Approach, How We Introduce Ourselves to Youth, and How to Begin with Openness and Poetry.

IMPORTANT: The introduction may also be a time to communicate important messages about safety, group rules, confidentiality, and reporting. ("Reporting" is a reference to the need to respond if youth seem to be in immediate danger of hurting themselves or of being hurt by others.)

The warm-up (#2) should be simple, possibly fun, possibly serious, a few sentences of writing and sharing that fosters communication and comfort.

The one-on-one work (#3) is the heart of the effort. You can read about Pongo's One-on-One Process, and Pongo's One-on-One Techniques, especially Taking Dictation. The 50 writing activities on this site can each be downloaded as a Word file for you to print out and use with an individual in a one-on-one session.

For the group sharing of poetry at the end (#4), the Pongo leader will bring everyone together. Youth may feel more comfortable having the mentor read their work aloud. Some writers may be shy about having their shared, at first, until they listen to their peers.

The work that is shared may be beautiful and painful and revealing and sad. It might represent a breakthrough in awareness for the writer. This time at the end of the session might be very moving and rewarding for everyone.