Statements from the EEL Teacher and Stories of Arrival Project Director

Carrie Stradley, ELL Teacher, Foster High School

Over the days and weeks of this poetry unit, I’ve seen my students grow beyond any textbook lesson. I’ve seen them learn to express what they rarely speak of in English—themselves and their stories of leaving and arrival. They have shown us all another side of who they are and where they come from, with pride. Through poetry, they’ve painted pictures of their homes and the circumstances which brought them here. Enclosed in this anthology is not merely a unit on poetry, but their most intimate stories and memories. I hope each reader can take away a sense of these students and the worlds that they left behind and their powerful stories of arrival.

Merna Ann Hecht, Stories of Arrival: Youth Voices, Project Director and Teaching Poet

It was a privilege to witness the process of how poetry came into the lives of the young people who participated in this project. Most all of the students in the project had not previously written poetry. They learned to write with the poet’s specificity, naming the names of loved ones and friends left behind, designating certain days and times, qualities of light and sounds, foods and festivals—things, events, and people, beloved and familiar to them from which they had been uprooted.
We encourage you to go to the KBCS (91.3) website and click on the archived broadcast of the Voices of Arrival poets. The recorded voices of these young poets sing through their readings with rich cadences and nuances of place, culture and country of origin. We hope that the radio broadcast and the anthology of these strong, courageous voices will bring readers and listeners into a deeper understanding of what is asked of young people as they begin to adjust to a markedly different culture and language. So much is behind them as they stand between borders, looking back on what and whom they loved and negotiating the very real landscapes of cultural identity and of gaining a sense of belonging in a new place.
One of the consistent comments among all of the students in the Stories of Arrival project was that they discovered how poetry helped them recognize themselves in each other’s stories and that they came to care about each other’s journeys and experiences with a sense of heightened compassion and understanding. I hope our readers and listeners will discover the same.

Special Thanks

The Stories of Arrival: Youth Voices project is grateful to its collaborative partners for support and funding. The Voices [Education Project], the Seattle Chapter of Bread for the Journey, John Fox and the Institute of Poetic Medicine in Paolo Alto, CA, the Tukwila Arts Commission, Jack Straw Productions and the Tukwila School District ELL Demo Grant have made this project possible. We also extend our gratitude to Joaquin Wy of KBCS radio (91.3 FM), the Foster High School administration, the Tukwila School District, Carrie Curley from United Reprographics, our photographer, Susano Munoz, our guest speaker, Abdi Sami, and the families of the magnificent young poets who are at the heart of this project.