Tag Archives: Youth

PONGO POETRY: Fork in the Road


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 youth at the Children & Family Justice Center (CFJC), King County’s juvenile detention facility. Many CFJC residents are Youth of Color who have endured traumatic experiences in the form of abuse, neglect, and exposure to violence. These incidents have been caused and exacerbated by community disinvestment, systemic racism, and other forms of institutional oppression. In collaboration with CFJC staff, Pongo poetry writing offers CFJC youth a vehicle for self-discovery and creative expression that inspires recovery and healing. 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. For an opportunity to learn Pongo’s trauma-informed techniques for facilitating personal, healing poetry in your classroom, therapeutic practice, or community space, join their training on Oct. 23.

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PHOTO ESSAY: Fathers and Sons Together Barbershop Event Encourages Hope

by Susan Fried


About a half dozen barbers volunteered their services last weekend so people could get free haircuts at Rainier Beach Community Center plaza. In addition to the cuts, there was food, entertainment, and free COVID-19 vaccines. The event was held in partnership with the Department of Neighborhoods and hosted by Fathers and Sons Together (FAST) — a youth development organization that aims to nurture the relationships between fathers and sons. It also featured three panel discussions around significant issues affecting the community, including one on health and wellness — in particular how they relate to COVID-19 — one on the recent surge in gun violence, and a third to discuss ways to help youth and create positive change in the community.

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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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Drew Campbell Talks Shine Kinesthetic: Learning by Doing, Exploring, Discovering

by Ari Robin McKenna


When Drew Campbell was in middle school in the Renton Highlands, he’d often watch recess alone from inside the classroom while all his peers played outside. After they lined up and came back into the building, he was allowed out into the schoolyard for his turn, wondering, “Would I ever be able to interact with the regular kids?” In the large, mostly empty classroom where he spent the rest of the day with two other students — each with their own Individual Education Plan (IEP) — posters mostly covered the windows to shield the three of them from being made fun of. When learning, they were separated by cubicle walls — not unlike those recently used to deter COVID-19 transmission — only they weren’t transparent. The isolation that Campbell felt, and the bullying he faced daily from peers after being excluded from their midst by adults after an ADHD diagnosis, is something he will never forget.

Yet born from this traumatic three years of his life was a desire to hone in on what students with a lot of energy — especially Black boys — need to be able to learn with enthusiasm and purpose. Though the public education system may have tried to fail Campbell, he learned from his experience a critique containing answers to questions now being asked publicly: How can we end the school-to-prison pipeline? How can we stop failing to engage Black boys? How can we make public education more inclusive?

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Rainier Scholars Announces New Partnership With Tacoma Public Schools

by Ronnie Estoque


For the last 20 years, Rainier Scholars has partnered with various organizations, school districts, individual schools, and businesses to academically support underrepresented students in the greater Seattle area. Earlier this month, Rainier Scholars announced that they would be partnering with Tacoma Public Schools (TPS) to further the district’s mission of supporting more students, especially those from multigenerational African American families. Their first Tacoma cohort will be recruited in the beginning of fall of 2021, with programming launching in the summer of 2022.

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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 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. For an opportunity to learn Pongo’s trauma-informed techniques for facilitating personal, healing poetry in your classroom, therapeutic practice, or community space, join their training on Oct. 23.


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Legislation Looks To Change Youth Sentencing, Offer Retroactive Relief

by Bunthay Cheam


A collection of proposed legislation working its way through the Washington State Legislature could substantially change sentencing of young offenders, as well as revise sentences for those currently incarcerated.

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Rainier Scholars Welcomes New Executive Director Rafael del Castillo

by Mark Van Streefkerk 


At a time when social and racial inequities require urgent action, many are asking the question — how can we make a more just world? For the last 20 years, Rainier Scholars has offered answers to that question through education, providing academic access and leadership development to BIPOC and underserved youth. Now with newly-selected Executive Director Rafael del Castillo, Rainier Scholars looks to expand their impact with a greater emphasis on racial justice. 

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Why We Need Black Lives Matter at School in 2021 — and How to Get Involved

by Alexis Mburu


Three years ago, if you were to ask me what the Black Lives Matter movement meant to me, I’d have given what I would now consider a lackluster answer. This is because three years ago, I was a seventh grader with a limited grasp on my identity and the world around me. Now, Black Lives Matter is a movement that holds so much weight it’s hard to imagine a time when I was so inattentive.

The 2017/2018 school year was the first year I participated in a Black Lives Matter at School Week of Action at my school in Tukwila, Washington, and it felt like a whisper. There was no energy or enthusiasm by the teachers I had because they were just doing what they were told,  going through the motions with slides that were provided by anti-racist teachers with real passion, ones who educated and liberated their students all year round — teachers who saw the necessity in decolonizing the education system one step at a time, and, for the most part, knew how to. I was lucky enough to know such a teacher: Erin Herda, who has been teaching ethnic studies for years, despite endless push-back.

Unfortunately, the experience of only getting to have the necessary conversations, read the important books, and be taught true history if you have the right teachers is all too common. 

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The Annual Seattle MLK Jr. Day March Encourages You to Get Into Some Good Trouble

by Chamidae Ford


For the past 38 years, hundreds to thousands of King County residents have arrived at Garfield High School on the third Monday morning in January. Rain or shine, they showed up to march in honor of one of the most important leaders of the civil rights movement, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

The annual march, hosted by the Seattle Martin Luther King Jr. Organizing Coalition (Seattle MLK), marks a time for the community to come together and not just honor Dr. King but to bring attention to the other issues facing the Black community. 

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