Providing the young people in DCYF’s care an opportunity to write about their lived experiences achieves many goals at once – writing is often therapeutic and strengthens writing skills while helping youth to claim their stories, thereby fostering personal growth.
Recently, DCYF has been supporting Seattle Times reporter Claudia Rowe in her research on youth systems of care in Washington State. As part of this work, Rowe interviewed youth on their experiences in foster care and Juvenile Rehabilitation (JR), and made inquiries with staff to provide these youth with high school credit for their contributions. This conversation inspired our Adolescent Programs (AP) and JR teams to take things a step further and find a way to bring creative writing classes to all youth at Echo Glen Children’s Center.
“I strongly believe that writing about lived experience is a powerful tool for learning and personal growth,” said Haley Lowe, AP’s Education Programs Administrator. “These are the exact type of experiences and partnerships we need to improve the overall experience of education in JR, and the next year – and beyond – is focused on just these types of programs and opportunities.”
In partnership with Echo Glen’s school, Haley took initiative on researching community-based organizations to partner with to bring creative writing classes to residents. That’s when Rowe connected Haley with the Pongo Poetry Project, a Seattle-based nonprofit that engages youth in writing poetry to inspire healing and growth.
To launch this program, Haley and Echo Glen School Principal Allison Ilgenfritz secured funding through the Issaquah School Foundations Kateri Brow Grant, a grant that responds to compelling needs that reflect innovation in education. As a result of these endeavors, Echo Glen’s school now offers a 20-week series of poetry workshops! All students have the opportunity to participate in four weeks of poetry writing and creative expression using the Pongo Teen Writing Method developed by Richard Gold, and will earn credit in English Language Arts.
This is a fantastic example of staff innovation, motivation, and strategic community partnering to support our youth. Between DCYF’s JR team, AP team, partnership with reporters, and strong relationship with the Issaquah School District, several leaders came together to enrich and improve the lives of young people in DCYF’s care. In alignment with our Strategic and Racial Equity Plan, this work strengthens therapeutic environments, enhances availability of services and supports, and provides young people with quality adult relationships.