Current Program Evaluation of Pongo

Today, with help from psychiatrists Dr. Mick Storck and Dr. Liz Koontz of the University of Washington School of Medicine, Pongo is contacting people who had previously written with us in the state psychiatric hospital for children, but have since been discharged. Pongo worked with 237 psychiatrically hospitalized youth in 2000-01 and 2005-12. To date, Pongo has spoken to about 35 youth.

The research team collects data through a 20-minute oral survey that asks Pongo’s former writers about their current involvement in writing, their opinions about the value of writing, and their feelings about the Pongo experience. The survey includes both open-ended questions and yes/no questions.

For the most part, the young people interviewed worked with Pongo only once or twice, with a mean of 1.89.

The preliminary results of this program evaluation (which is not a formal study) show that, years later, youth remember Pongo, enjoyed the experience, believe in the value of writing, personally benefitted from writing, and are continuing to write. Also, the authors’ responses to open-ended survey questions identify specific benefits of Pongo and poetry, including finding a safe environment for self-expression, gaining a tool to regulate emotions, finding shared experience with other teens and mentors, and gaining a sense of pride in their creative accomplishments.

One 16-year-old young man told us: “I felt relieved about talking about things through writing that I didn’t usually talk about… Being in such a horrible place and then having all these joyful people come in to help us, it was kind of like an ambulance coming to a car wreck.”