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 Kalliopeia Foundation, the Tukwila School District, the Tukwila Arts Commission, Judy Piggott, the Seattle Chapter of Bread for the Journey, Ruth Keating Lockwood and the Washington Women’s Foundation, 4Culture/King County Lodging Tax Fund, the Washington State Arts Commission, and PONCHO.
Students in our 2011 project came from Bhutan, Bosnia, Brazil, Burma, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Kenya, Mexico, Moldavia, Nepal, Russia, Somalia, Turkey, and Vietnam.
The students came to Jack Straw and worked with our engineers and teaching artists to enhance their performance skills and record their poems. In April 2011, National Poetry Month, KBCS Community Radio broadcast the Stories of Arrival poems. 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.”
“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:
“I appreciated that you guys gave us a chance to show our feelings and our thoughts into the studio.”
“I learned how to work with the radio, and how to show my feelings in my poem to people. I’m glad that we worked together.”
“I felt so excited because it is the first time that I hear my voice loud and real. It is so amazing.”
“This program let my voice to reach other immigrant people.”
“My classmates and I were so excited that we can show our emotions in our voice and let everyone listen to our real voice and real emotion.”
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…READ MORE >