Foster High School: Stories of Arrival 2017-18

Stories of Arrival: Youth Voices is a community partnership project between Foster High School, Jack Straw Cultural Center, and the Institute for Poetic Medicine in Palo Alto, CA.

Poet and project director Merna Ann Hecht, ELL teacher Carrie Stradley, and Jack Straw’s team of artists worked with Foster High School English Language Learners, helping them tell their stories in English through poetry. In this year’s project, students created poems drawn from their memories of food in the homelands. Jack Straw’s vocal coaches helped students read their poems out loud in the classroom. The students then recorded their poems 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 2017-18 project came from Kenya, Eritrea, Nepal, Ethiopia, Myanmar/Burma, Bhutan, Morocco, Vietnam, Honduras, Philippines, Afghanistan, Somalia, Mexico, China, Congo, and Thailand. The Stories of Arrival project culminated with an anthology and this web page.

You can hear all the poems below.

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 across 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.

“My greatest hope is that this year’s participants who wrote so ardently and honestly about their experiences and about protecting the planet will know that their words matter. I want them to know that their voices can contribute to dispelling the dangerous stereotypes and false words about refugees and immigrants that are far too present in our national and global rhetoric. . . . The students in this year’s project are some of the strongest and most insightful amabassadors for peace I have encountered anywhere in any situation.”
-Merna Hecht

“Throught the project I have witnessed my students grow in their willingness to share of themselves, in their command of the English language, and in their ever-evolving identities of themselves in the landscape of a new country. Not only did they develop the fine art of crafting poetry by deliberating over word choice, but also they have experienced a new way to use their voices with expression rather than the utilitarian English they use to navigate high school.”
– Carrie Stradley, ELL Teacher, Foster High School


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…