Tag Archives: Youth Voices

PHOTO ESSAY: Student Voices, Demands From Last Friday’s COVID-19 Walkout

by Ari Robin McKenna, photos by Chloe Collyer


Recently, in Mx. Sam Cristol’s ethnic studies class at Cleveland STEM High School, students were discussing the effects of COVID-19 in Seattle. “We started with the idea of all of us being frustrated with the way that these issues are being handled — and not handled, for that matter,” said student organizer Nya Spivey, “and then we were like, well … what as students can we do?” Spivey and classmates Mia Dabney and Ava May decided they could do something, and so they did.

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PONGO POETRY: Self-Discovery Jigsaw

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 bi-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, register for Ignite Pongo, its upcoming training on Oct. 22.

Content Warning: Discussion of child abuse


Continue reading PONGO POETRY: Self-Discovery Jigsaw

The Need for Mandated Racial Equity Training in Schools

by Alexis Mburu and Eva Herdener


What happens when those tasked with teaching also need to be taught? Our education system has always had to adapt, whether in regards to who was allowed in the doors or how we kept them safe. And we can always find ways to improve the quality of education students are receiving — especially regarding race and equity. 

As two members of the NAACP Youth Council, we spend a lot of time focusing on working towards racial equity in the education system. One of our group’s key issues is the need for mandated racial equity training in schools. We are youth currently in the education system. Most of us identify with one or multiple marginalized communities and we have seen firsthand the damage done to students due to the ignorance of those who are “authorities” inside schools. Racial equity training is one way we can help ensure the system we rely on for our educational and social growth is a safe place for all of us. 

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PONGO POETRY: Why I Hate Basketball

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 bi-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, register for Ignite Pongo, its upcoming training on Oct. 22.

Content Warning: Discussion of child sexual abuse.


WHY I HATE BASKETBALL

by a young person at CSTC

The nightmare started when I was 5 years old
I had just moved into the yellow house
Everything was going fine until I moved there
I had a really weird neighbor
He was a few years older than me
His name, which I’ll never forget, was C
He started out telling me words I didn’t understand
I told my parents, but they didn’t believe me
They said that I learned it from an inappropriate TV show
But that wasn’t where I learned it
From that point on, it just got worse
When he figured out what I said
he started asking me weird questions
And telling me to do weird things
I felt really embarrassed and violated
As the years went on, it just got worse
Now I know what he was doing
and I didn’t know how to stop it

Continue reading PONGO POETRY: Why I Hate Basketball

OPINION: Homelessness, Poverty, and the City Budget

by Jay Sygiel, Isaac Litwak, and Sawyer Hanners


Walking down the streets of Seattle, tents, tarps, and sleeping bags have become a familiar sight. The state of homelessness in our city can only be described as a human services emergency. To solve this dilemma, we must look at where it stems from. The primary cause of homelessness can be boiled down to two things: the cost of living and the income gap that plagues the city.

In recent years, 77,300 Seattleites (5,000 more than the seating capacity of Lumen Field) reside below the poverty rate. Of these people, more than 11,000 of them are homeless and half of those are unsheltered. But this statistic is not representative of the amount of people not having their needs met due to low/unstable incomes. The national poverty line is set much lower than what is considered livable in Seattle. For one person to live comfortably here, you must make around $72,092, which is over five times the national poverty line.

Over the past six years, rents in Seattle have increased 57% while the average salary has not scaled to compensate for that increase. Thus, the income gap is only getting larger, leaving the people of Seattle in the dust.

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OPINION: I Believe in Love

by Joy Pearl

(This essay is in response to a prompt asking young people about their feelings living through the COVID-19 pandemic and reckoning with white supremacy after the January 6, 2021 insurrection.)


As I look around at the faces of people who have come into my life recently or a long time ago, I feel at peace. When I think of people who have been there for me at different times in my life — times when I felt like the world was caving in and times I felt on top of the world — I feel supported. My grandma who calls me Sunshine, my godmother Ruth who is the embodiment of tough love, my parents who make sure that I know they are proud of me, my zeiza (grandpa) who always believed in me, and many others. As I look at the room full of people here with me as I write, I love and I am loved. In a world full of hate, I choose love. 

I believe in love.

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Pongo Poetry: My Heart is No Longer…

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 bi-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, register for Ignite Pongo, its upcoming training on Oct. 22.


Continue reading Pongo Poetry: My Heart is No Longer…

OPINION: Let’s Go Vote

by Pari McDonald, Ana McDonald, Marina Rojas, and Chiara Zanatta-Kline

(This article originally appeared on the South End Stories Youth Blog.)


The voices of those who are furthest from opportunity, who are actively being suppressed and kept from voting, must be heard, especially during this election. Ana (18), Pari (15), and Cymran (13) McDonald decided they wanted to do something about creating easy, accessible ways for the communities that they love and who have lifted them up in life, to register to vote. The sisters worked with young adults Chiara and Marina to build Mini Voter Registration Boxes for areas where QT/BIPOC voters may have difficulty printing voter registration forms or may not be able to easily get stamps or envelopes, especially during COVID. The girls also wanted to ensure that young voters were easily able to access voter registration by providing texting and QR codes to register online. Boxes were placed in the Central District, New Holly, White Center, High Point, Renton, Federal Way, and Tacoma.

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