Foster High School: Stories of Arrival 2009-10

The Stories of Arrival: Youth Voices Project is a community partnership project between Foster High School, Jack Straw Productions, KBCS 91.3 FM radio and the Institute for Poetic Medicine in Palo Alto, CA.

Seattle Poet and 2008 Jack Straw Writer Merna Ann Hecht worked with Foster High School students from around the world to write poems about their experiences for a project titled Stories of Arrival, produced with support from The Institute for Poetic Medicine; Bread for the Journey; The Tukwila School District; the Tukwila Arts Commission; the Washington State Arts Commission; and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Students in our 2010 project came from Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bosnia, Burma, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Kenya, Laos, Mexico, Nepal, Romania, Russia, Somalia, Sudan, Thailand, Tonga, Turkey, the United States, and Vietnam.

The students came to Jack Straw Productions and worked with our engineers and teaching artists to enhance their performance skills and record their poems. In August 2010 KBCS Community Radio broadcast the Stories of Arrival poems Monday through Friday all month. We have archived all of the students’ poems below for your listening pleasure.

Foster High School is the only high school in the most linguistically diverse school district in the nation, according to The New York Times. The students are immigrants and refugees from Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Kenya, Mexico, Tanzania, Vietnam, Nepal, and other places spanning the globe. All have left behind members of their family on their journey here. They will most likely be the first in their families to graduate from high school.

“In these poems, many voices have spoken with one heart. While each student has a unique story to tell, based on his or her experiences and memories, there are commonalities among the students that in a sense create ‘one heart.’ A heart full of memories and longing for friends, houses, gardens, and relatives that had to be left behind. A heart that misses the celebrations, colors, smells, sounds, and food of a motherland – village, small town, or city. A heart that is filled with loneliness and longing living in a refugee camp. A heart that has kept hold of strength, hope and resiliency, even as war, violence, and loss of loved ones have been part of a young life.”
-Merna Hecht

“Through this shared experience, I have seen my class come together even more as a community. Students who are often shy or reluctant begin to speak out. Students share their anxieties and triumphs together through recording their poetry. Having students record their poetry for the radio is life changing.”
-Carrie Stradley, ELL Teacher, Foster High School

Testimonials from Foster High School students:

“Poetry is wonderful, because it allows students to know each other’s feelings and the picture of their homes.”

“I am very excited to write this poetry because I got a chance to share my ideas, feelings, memories from past.”

“I learned to show the feelings I have inside of me.”

“I learned to make expression from my heart.”

“I learned that when you read a poem you need a lot of passion.”

Jack Straw’s programs for youth are made possible with the generous support of the City of Seattle Office of Arts and Cultural Affairs, the National Endowment for the Arts, Wells Fargo, Seattle Rotary, the Washington State Arts Commission, partner organizations, and individuals.


Merna Ann Hecht

Merna Ann Hecht

Merna Ann Hecht is a nationally known storyteller, social justice educator and published poet and essayist. She has over twenty five years of experience as a teaching artist in diverse…