Volunteering with Pongo


Thank you for your interest in volunteering with Pongo. We rely on volunteer adults who mentor youth in writing heartfelt, personal poetry.

As a Pongo Poetry Mentor, you will be trained in Pongo's techniques for teaching poetry writing to distressed teens. You will be well supported and will work on a close-knit, collaborative team of 3 to 4 others under the direction of an experienced Pongo Project Leader.

Read How to Apply  

What is Pongo looking for in volunteer Poetry Mentors?
  • Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) are highly encouraged to apply.

  • We are looking for people are reflective, open, honest, and can bring the love!

  • A Pongo Poetry Mentor needs to have a clear understanding of personal boundaries and an ability to adapt to the guidelines of organizations Pongo works in.

  • The ideal Pongo volunteer will write poetry, have education as a teacher or counselor, and have experience personal or professional in helping people affected by trauma.

Pongo's Commitment to Diversity

Because a large percentage of youth we write with are BIPOC, Pongo seeks to have a diverse team of Poetry Mentors as a best practice. We know from experience that BIPOC youth are excited to see Poetry Mentors who look like them. For a powerful example, listen to Amani's story.

What is the time commitment?
  • Our current projects meet weekly, from mid-Sept through June.

  • Our projects meet at specific weekday times for about 3 hours each week.

  • Volunteers must make a commitment to attending the Pongo sessions, being on time, and staying with the program until its completion.

  • Volunteers must be willing to do homework assignments, including writing their own poetry.

What does a volunteer Poetry Mentor's day look like?

Though times vary at our different sites, each weekly Pongo session is around 3 hours and has the following components:

  • Ongoing Poetry Mentor Training and Collaboration (45-60 minutes): Mentors check-in, share poems we've written and ones we've found, create activities, review/hone Pongo techniques.

    Facilitating Poetry with Youth (50-90 minutes): Create a group poem as a warm up, then work with teens one-on-one to create personal poetry. Teens change from week to week.

  • Debrief with Poetry Mentors (15-30 minutes):  Mentors check-in, type up and send copies of youth poems, receive poetry writing prompts or activity creation assignments as "homework".

What is the process for becoming a volunteer?
  • In general, we form our teams in August, have orientations in September, and run our projects between September and June, along with the school year. However, volunteers are encouraged to apply year around in case positions open up.

  • Please complete a Pongo application as described on the page How to Apply .

  • If you are reading this between October-May, please email programmanager@pongoteenwriting.org and ask to be on the Pongo email list! Tell us that your particular interest is in volunteering. You will receive the next Call for Volunteers.

As a Pongo mentor, you will help the teens to 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.

Pongo Poetry Mentors of diverse ethnic and professional backgrounds have helped thousands of young people create powerful poetry that they are proud of. Read more about our youth writer survey results and pilot studies showing the efficacy of Pongo's approach. 

For a deeper understanding of the Pongo volunteer experience, watch KING5 TV's Emmy Award Winning video about Pongo's project in King County Juvenile Detention.

Also, read longtime Pongo Project Lead Ann Teplick's essay The Quieter We Become, the More We Are Able to Hear.

We hope you will apply.

Are there paid opportunities for volunteers? 

Though there are currently no paid positions open, past Poetry Mentors have moved into the following paid positions with Pongo:

  • Assistant Project Lead

  • Project Lead

  • Assistant Pongo Trainer

  • Book Editor

  • Program Manager

  • Assistant Director

As Pongo starts new projects and makes new financial partners, we anticipate being able to hire for positions like these in the future.Though we cannot guarantee that volunteers will be selected for future positions, we will provide qualified volunteers with opportunities to apply.