Foster High School: Stories of Arrival 2012-13

Foster High School student Jonathan Tum Ceu Hnin with Jack Straw teaching artist Christine Marie Brown

This year, project co-directors poet Merna Ann Hecht and ELL teacher Carrie Stradley worked with English Language Learners at Foster High School in Tukwila Washington, helping them tell their stories in English through poetry. Jack Straw Productions voice coaches came to the classroom to help students read their poems out loud. The poems were then recorded in the Jack Straw studios where the students received individual vocal coaching, provided each other with feedback, and helped the engineers with the recording process.

Students in our 2013 project came from Bhutan, Burma, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mexico, Somalia, and Vietnam. The Stories of Arrival project culminated with an anthology, audio CDs, this web page, and the airing of Jack Straw-produced radio pieces on KBCS-FM.

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.

“Each young person in this project shares the experience of having left a homeland which in many instances was a result of forced migration due to the consequences of war and violent conflict. . . . With breathtaking beauty and clarity they have opened their memory boxes and their hearts so that we come close to what and who they have loved and lost.”
-Merna Hecht

“This year I saw students bring to the surface, often for the first time, memories of family members who have passed away, bittersweet reflections of their lives in refugee camps, and hopes for peace in their homelands. The project allows students to express themselves in a eway that test scores can’t measure, and is by far more impactful. I am honored to witness the students’ sense of empowerment through this experience and to help them articulate their reflections of life.”
-Carrie Stradley, ELL Teacher, Foster High School

In April, 2013 the Stories of Arrival poems were broadcast as part of National Poetry Month on KBCS. Each piece features one or two of the students reading their poems.

Here is the first radio piece, featuring Foster poets Abdi Ibrahim and Benu Ghimire:


You can listen to all of the poems below:


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…