Pongo Poetry Project’s mission is to engage youth in writing poetry to inspire healing and growth. For over 20 years, Pongo has mentored poetry with children at the Child Study and Treatment Center (CSTC), the only state-run psychiatric hospital for youth in Washington State. Many CSTC youth are coping with severe emotional, behavioral, and mental health challenges. Approximately 40% of youth arrive at CSTC having been court ordered to get treatment; however, by the end of their stay, most youth residents become voluntary participants.

Pongo believes there is power in creative expression and articulating one’s pain to an empathetic audience. Through this special monthly column in partnership with the South Seattle Emerald, Pongo invites readers to bear witness to the pain, resilience, and creative capacity of youth whose voices and perspectives are too often relegated to the periphery. To partner with Pongo in inspiring healing and relief in youth coping with mental and emotional turmoil, join Pongo’s certification pilot program this spring!

How I Grew Up

by a young person at CSTC 

I always felt abandoned
like a leftover shoe that no one liked
I always felt like my mind shattered like a glass bottle
I feel like I’m the only one in this world that’s empty
I feel like I’m a puppy that’s been taken away from his mother
I always saw the color blue when I’m lonely
I feel like a newborn mouse that hasn’t opened his eyes
I call out my mother’s name but she’s not around
I always saw shadows that no one else sees
I feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders
I always felt like a discolored leaf, different from others

I know I get through this but the question is how…


by a young person at CSTC 

If I was a color,
I would be yellow
Yellow like the sun
Or the stars that shine at night
Yellow to me is happy
If I was a color,
I would be deep blue
Like the ocean
Like the sadness I feel each night
Or the color your skin turns with a bruise

If I was a color,
I would be black like the night
And the pain in my life

The Future

by a young person at CSTC 

When I think about the future,
I feel anxious about the unknown
and I want to go home
be with my family
so we can do family nights
games and watch movies
but I also want to go to college

When I think about the future
I picture myself in a college dorm
with a roommate
having fun together
going out to lunch
studying together
traveling with friends in the summer
all over the states in a car
checking out the national parks
and doing hikes there

When I think about the future
I want to be a therapist
to help teenagers
have a better life
to help them work through their struggles

I think I could help them
because of the things I went through and
the way I came out of it all

📸 Featured Image: Illustration by Alexa Strabuk 譚文曠.

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