Stories Across the Agency: A Farewell Tribute to Nikum Pon
Celebrating the Next Chapter for the Pon Family
For the past three years Nikum Pon, Director of Equity in Education at PSESD, has touched the lives of countless people through his work. Leading by example, Nikum has modeled ways to apply theory to practice to ensure that our agency and our partners have the tools necessary to support racially equitable and culturally responsive approaches in our work. After three years of service with PSESD, Nikum and his family are embarking on the next adventure and moving to Cambodia to create a school for low-income children (using curriculum from Arts Impact!). Please join us in wishing Nikum and his family safety and strength on this next leg of the journey. You can follow the Pon family by visiting their website at theponfam.com and subscribing to their monthly newsletter.
PSESD: When you first began at Puget Sound ESD, what led you to this work?
Nikum Pon (NP): The PSESD’s focus on racial equity attracted me to the agency. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to lead this work on a regional level that might have a huge impact on students of color.
PSESD: As you look back on the past three years with PSESD, what are some of the memories that stick out to you the most?
NP: There are many memories. Hands down, the first one is the relationships with my colleagues within the PSESD–especially our Equity in Education team, and external partners across the region and state. I have been privileged to learn from and with them during my tenure here. The second one is our Equity in Education team retreat where we forged our team’s identity by developing our own shared purpose and analysis. The third one is my partnership with Dr. Marion Smith to co-develop and co-facilitate many professional learning sessions, in which two of my favorites were Coaching and Leading for Racial Equity Institute and Critical Race Theory Seminar.
I believe the work of racial equity requires us to be connected to each other relationally, otherwise, this work becomes theoretical, and there is nothing theoretical about the lives of students–especially our historically marginalized ones.
PSESD: Your journey just to arrive in Tacoma, Washington is miraculous to say the least. How does your history inform your perspective on your work, and on the world at large?
NP: I had felt that life was not fair to me. But, through a long and painful process of personal healing, I came to appreciate my history with all of the joys and sufferings that came with it. They forged my character–a deeper appreciation for life and love for people–and gave me a sense of purpose and conviction to fight for the most marginalized in society. I believe the work of racial equity requires us to be connected to each other relationally, otherwise, this work becomes theoretical, and there is nothing theoretical about the lives of students–especially our historically marginalized ones.
PSESD:What are you most looking forward to as you write this next chapter of your story?
NP: I’ve spent most of life building other people’s and organization’s kingdoms. I look forward to spending more time with my wife and kids in building my own legacy so my kids can grow up to be productive global citizens. I want them to know the importance of servanthood and to be producers and creators in our society toward cultivating beloved communities. I look forward to doing this together as a family in Cambodia and in other parts of the world.
Unleash your soul to a life worth living for. Not everyone is called to move internationally, but everyone is called to lovingly move and touch people’s hearts.
PSESD:What advice or words of encouragement do you have for staff at PSESD?
NP: Do not be derailed by the American Dream. It is a facade that will leave your soul empty. Rather, unleash your soul to a life worth living for. Not everyone is called to move internationally, but everyone is called to lovingly move and touch people’s hearts. Regardless of age, reawaken your dreams and don’t live a life with regrets!
PSESD:What’s the best way to follow your work in Cambodia?
NP: Head to our family’s website (theponfam.com) and subscribe to our monthly newsletter. We plan on blogging regularly about our work in Cambodia. We would also love to stay in touch!
PSESD:Just in case: can we still send you a Zoom link to remotely assist with Equity trainings?
NP: Yes, most definitely!!
“Stories Across the Agency”is a new monthly column dedicated to the stories of the people who make up Puget Sound ESD. With over 100 programs across King County, Pierce County, and Bainbridge Island, our goal is to share the experiences of staff throughout the agency to increase awareness around the collective impact of our work. If you or someone you know is interested in sharing stories from your work, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.