From Zine Intern to Bride: Leticia’s Story


By Zine Instructor Shaun

After Zine, many of our interns go on to get housing and jobs.

LY ziner

Leticia, Zine Intern

Leticia—Zine intern from Winter 2011— went on to get married.

Zine was an important benchmark for Leticia. At the time, Leticia was staying in shelters and traveling with her home on her back. Leticia came into her first day at zine exhausted from carrying her heavy pack and self conscious about reading her writing in front of others. Despite her circumstances and natural timidity, Leticia persevered and grew. She showed up every day and, in the safe, accepting environment of Zine, she quickly overcame her fear of being the center of attention. Leticia began sharing her poetry—writing and reading boldly.

Leticia and Audrey

Leticia and Audrey

While in Zine, Leticia was also participating in The Groundwork Project, Catholic Community Services Wrap Around program. Her wrap around facilitator, Audrey Baedke, worked with Leticia on everything from getting a storage unit to applying for housing. The road to finding Leticia a stable place to stay was a long one. There were months of weekly team meetings, phone calls, applications and even a bad fit. Audrey and Leticia tirelessly looked and applied until finding the perfect place—a permanent housing program that would accommodate Leticia and her long term boyfriend.

Leticia, Bride

Leticia, Bride

Zine ended and Leticia graduated feeling more confident. She read at her Zine graduation in front of a small group of fans. She ended Groundwork housed and happy.

Two years later, Leticia and her boyfriend of five years, got engaged. Still housed, still together, both felt it was time to tie the knot. When thinking of someone to officiate, Leticia thought of Audrey.

LY wedding 2

Saying “I Do”

Audrey had some qualms at first, but Leticia was successfully persistent. Audrey had served as a mentor and support for many years and in Leticia’s mind, she was a natural choice.

The wedding, held at New Horizons Ministries and officiated by Audrey, was attended by family, friends and supports in both youth’s lives.

Leticia, glowing in white, seemed to have no problem being in the center of attention.

Congratulations Leticia!LY I know present to you


Another Zine Alum Graduates from James W. Ray Orion Center’s Barista Program

By Shaun

KR Grad 3

During her time in Zine Project Seattle, Kristin was a rock star. With great attendance and focus, Kristin’s zine was an aesthetic dream.

Like a lot of our rock stars, Kristin was not only active with the creative parts of our program, she had great follow through with the Case Management part as well.

During Zine, Kristin moved into her own apartment through the support of her Zine Case Manager Kelsey and through the YMCA’s Shelter-to-Housing program. After she graduated zine, Kristin continued meeting with Kelsey in order to keep that apartment.  Shelter-to-Housing is a program for homeless youth staying in shelters; the program pays for portions of youth rent–portions that incrementally decrease, motivating youth to pay larger and larger portions of rent if they plan to hang on to their housing.

For Kristin, this meant getting a job after Zine.

Kristin, being Kristin, got two.

KR grad 1Through hard work coordinating with Kelsey and her YMCA supports, Kristin overcame some emotional hurdles, gained confidence and started pounding pavement until she secured jobs at Barista and at a restaurant.

Eight weeks later, we enjoyed the fruit of her labors: some great coffee tamped by her skilled hands and another successful employment experience, getting her ready for many more to come.

Nice job Kristin! KR Grad 5

Click here to read a copy of Kristin’s zine Loved, Lost, Lived. 

Zine Alum Graduates from Washington Youth Academy with Diploma

by Shaun McMichael

After graduating from the Zine Project, Michelle had a goal: to graduate.

Craving a challenge and wanting some structure, Michelle chose to attend Washington Youth Academy (W.Y.A.)—an academic boot camp run by the National Guard out in Bremerton.

W.Y.A. is no joke. Youth who enroll have to wake up at 6am, say “yes sir”, drop and give 25 push ups frequently, and run P.T. when they’re not doing school work.



Michelle—a mural-painting, poetry-spitting skater grrrrl— had to turn in her trusty trucks and paint brushes for a 6 month supply of black unmarked shirts, army boots and fatigues.

She headed out to Bremerton determined, excited, but not knowing what to expect and not knowing how she would keep up her poetry. Zine Instructor Shaun sent her off with a bunch of prompts, hoping the rigor of W.Y.A. would give her some inspiration.



Six months and many many push-ups later, Michelle is graduating with her high school diploma and is still writing.

Through Michelle’s own drive and the support of case management at W.Y.A. and UDYC, Michelle persevered and stuck with it to the finish line, using writing to cope along the way.

“I still use the writing concepts you taught me,” Michelle mentioned to Shaun not long ago.

But it wasn’t just the writing concepts from Zine that helped Michelle be successful at W.Y.A. The interview skills taught at Zine helped prepare Michelle for other interviews she had to do at W.Y.A.

“Also the reading-poetry-out-loud part,” Michelle shared. “It really helped me learn to communicate better. Especially to a crowd.”

Zine prompts its interns to read out loud—in front of each other and upon graduating. At Zine Graduation, in front of a group of twenty or so, Michelle rose to the challenge and knocked it out of the park (click here to hear her read her piece “A Dedication to My Life”). At W.Y.A., Michelle went on to read her poems in front of even larger audiences of peers and staff.

She came by UDYC the other day to present her Senior Project to Teacher Mike and Zine Instructor Shaun.

Michelle shaking hands with her teacher, Mike

Michelle shaking hands with her teacher, Mike

Not surprisingly, Michelle presented on Spoken Word Poetry.

In her presentation, Michelle showed a picture of her in her fatigues and military cap before a line of sober cadets, as Michelle threw down some of her verses. The picture proved, for doubters of all ages, that poetry can thrive anywhere. If you’ve got heart. If you’ve got a voice.

Michelle’s love for writing carried the presentation that day.

“When people like my poetry and relate to it, I like that,” Michelle shared. “It gives me the strength to write what they can’t and to speak it for them.”

Because of poetry, Michelle interacts with people differently and has a different relationship with words in general. “When I talk to people now, I think about what words I’m going to say before I speak them. Sometimes I even make rhymes when I don’t mean to.”

MP Congrats M readingMichelle closed her presentation with a reading of Andrea Gibson’s “Say Yes” and gave special emphasis to the following stanza:

“Never go a second hushing the percussion of your heart
play loud
play like you know the clouds have left too many people cold and broken and you’re their last chance for sun
Play like there’s no time for hoping brighter days will come
play like the apocalypse is only 4…3…2
but you have a drum in your chest that could save us.”

(Click here to watch Andrea Gibson perform the full version).

Just like Andrea Gibson, Michelle’s drum is steady, percussive and resonant. And while she may not always be marching in line like she’s done for the last six months at Washington Youth Academy, we at Zine know she’ll always be beating.

Thanks Michelle! And congratulations.

MP Congrats Blog pic 2 web

Readers, thanks for reading. Be sure to check out Michelle’s zine A Day in the Shoes…

Zine Project Alums Graduate from Youthcare’s Barista Program

Previously, we’ve written about how Youthcare’s Barista Program is a landing pad for Zine graduates to pursue further employment opportunities (click here to read previous post).

Josh at Barista Graduation

Josh at Barista Graduation

This is no truer than ever after last Friday’s Barista Graduation event. The final 2012 Barista cohort contained two former Zine superstars–Josh and Justin who rocked it in Zine and, not surprisingly, went on to rock it in Barista.

Justin at the Barista Graduation

Justin at the Barista Graduation

For two weeks they studied coffee. For five weeks they worked at a cafe serving real life customers at Fare Start’s Cafe at the 2100 building in South Seattle. And for a final week they looked for jobs, getting a chance to get interviewed by current management at neighboring Starbucks.

Last Friday, they celebrated. The Barista Grads made gourmet drinks for their guests and then got a chance to read words of thanks.

Graduation from Barista meant employment success continued from their Zine Project tenure. But, of course, it meant more. It meant a moment of victory for young people still struggling with difficult issues like poverty and addiction that make it difficult for young people to finish things.

Justin, after thanking the Barista staff and his fellow graduates, shared the following:

I had a lot of struggles during the program. Fears of the future, guilt from the past, stuff that matters, and mostly, just stuff that really shouldn’t matter but does. I was scared I wouldn’t finish the program a few times. I hit a rough spot, a rough week really, and I was doubtful I would get out of it.


To quote one of my favorite writers, Hubert Selby, and I’m paraphrasing here: “We despair because we choose to fight against pain instead of letting go”. That clicked on one of those despair days, and I promised myself that I would work to get better. I don’t want to fight pain anymore. It’s just as much a part of me as the happiness I feel here now. And you know what? Its ok to hurt sometimes, because it sure as heck makes these moments when I feel accomplished that much better.

Justin with Barista Completion Certificate

Justin with Barista Completion Certificate

This is a crucial insight. Especially considering that so many youth problems stem from the impulse to fly from feeling pain. An insight gleaned from literature, acted out in the crucible of meaningful work and shared through the spoken word with the young person’s community: this is what Zine hopes for for all of its graduates.

It’s a tall order. But both Justin and Josh did it last Friday.

Justin continued:

I had a blast in this program. I am most happy when I’m bettering myself and my craft, be it writing, or running, or making coffee. It satiates me spiritually. My idea of happiness is something that takes struggle and change. Something that is built with my hands. We are the sculptors as well as the marble as the saying goes. And though I’m not perfect, and have plenty of work to do. I’m happy to say that I’m finally sculpting the person I want to become.

Josh with Barista Completion Certificate

Josh with Barista Completion Certificate

Way to go Barista Grads!

Click here to check out more of Justin’s writing in his zine, Unhinged.

Click here to read Josh’s zine The Book of Life.

Where Are They Now? Employment Success After Zine

By Zine Instructor Shaun

Job Training at Barista, a potential next step after Zine

Job Training at Barista, a potential next step after Zine

So, after they finish your program—then what?

It’s the most common question visitors to the Zine Project ask us and it’s one of the more mysterious.

One way Zine helps out its interns, is by informing and referring them to other more rigorous youth employment programs around Seattle. But the success of these referrals depends largely on the interns’ readiness to step up to the plate of real employment.

"Braxton" Graduates from Orion Center's Barista Program

“Braxton” Graduates from Orion Center’s Barista Program

A youth we’ll call Braxton is one such ready intern. After completing the Zine Project, he climbed up the ladder, completing a more vigorous youth program and, after that, getting into an advanced adult employment program. Here’s his story:

In Zine, Braxton was an enjoyable anomaly. As is often the case with interns, Braxton hadn’t written seriously before getting hired by the Zine Project. He’d even had some struggles with the subject at school. Braxton also hadn’t worked in two years—another commonality among our young people.

But Zine works from people of all walks of life. Ziners don’t have to identify as “artistic” or even as writers. We have an array of techniques that can help people produce writing and, as a prevocational program, adopt an understanding posture towards youth who may not know what professionalism looks like. All youth have to have is a willingness.

Despite his lack of experience in the medium, Braxton came through. He completed work on his zine a week early. And not a moment too soon.

While I’d been working with him on his writing, Kevin, our Employment Specialist, was working with him to get into YouthCare’s Barista Program.

Braxton took applying for Barista lightly at first, whipping out a rough, smudgy application. Kevin, being a vigillant advocate, stopped Braxton and encouraged him to take some more time.

Barista is hard. Youth study for a two week period, and then have five weeks working in an actual café making sandwiches and coffee. But before this, they have to pass through Week 0—a week where the twelve youth that are hired compete for eight spots. To remain competitive, youth candidates have to show up on time and stay focused.

Braxton had been having some attendance issues in Zine. But Kevin and I had been coaching him on this—which meant holding him accountable with a write up and a firm talking to. If he was going to make it through Barista, this wouldn’t fly.

Braxton seemed to take our words to heart. He also responded to Kevin’s advising and together the two worked on creating a polished resume, cover letter and application to represent the wonderful individual Braxton is.

Not only did Braxton get into Barista, he made it through Week Zero and a few weeks later, graduated the program successfully.

"Braxton" and Zine Project Case Manager Kevin

“Braxton” and Zine Project Case Manager Kevin

A week after graduating, Braxton got into FareStart—an adult culinary training program. The program will equip him fully to work in a kitchen. From there, Braxton dreams of getting a job catering or opening his own taco truck. Look out El Camion!

Where youth will take the skills we give them depends on a few things. First off their employability, which in itself is a composite of their mental health and/or chemical dependency status, as well as their housing situation. The Zine Project meets youth who are struggling with these three factors in ways other jobs would not. We do this for the purpose of trying to get them stable while holding them accountable when they don’t show up or don’t communicate.

Luckily, Braxton, by the time he came to us, was housed and sober. Which helps things.

The second thing that youth success depends on is our ability to refer. Talented and informed Case Managers like Kevin are able to steer able-bodied youth on to various programs and counsel them through the hiring and employment process.

Thirdly, and most mysteriously—it takes an indefatigable will and tenacity of the individual to seize what employment opportunities there are.

In this case, Braxton was able to set his sights on what he wanted and go for.

We wish him the best of luck and are proud to be a part of his success.

Seattle Teen Writing Project Spotlight: Pongo Publishing

by Zine Instructor Shaun

Everybody’s got to start somewhere and for me that start was Pongo.

Pongo Publishing is a Seattle Non-profit dedicated to writing poetry with youth in institutional settings, specifically King County Juvenile Detention Center and Western State Psychiatric’s CSTC (Child Study and Treatment Center).

Check out this powerful video to hear more about how they use writing to engage youth in trouble:

 As a poetry mentor with Pongo, you get to be that person who cares.

Before Pongo, I was just an odd ball Psych./ English Major. After three years with Pongo, I was ready to launch my own version at The Zine Project.

Pongo enriches its mentors with great approaches and techniques for producing writing with youth who may or may not have written creatively before. I used them at CSTC and I use them everyday at Zine to help young people create writing about their feelings and narratives.

To find out how to volunteer with the Zine Project, check out our volunteer page.

To learn more about Pongo, their method and how to get involved, visit their website at