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 settings through the Washington State Arts Commission, the Tacoma Public Schools and the Seattle Arts and Lectures Writers in the Schools Program. For five years she was the Co-Director of the Richard Hugo House School Alliance Program. Her work as a poet with young people who have experienced trauma, loss, or difficult transitions includes residencies in King County and Seattle Juvenile Detention Centers, in the Orion Center for Homeless Teens and at the Fred Hutch Cancer Research School.
In 2008, Merna received a National Storytelling Network Brimstone Award for Applied Storytelling, through which she worked in a pilot program as a poet and storyteller at BRIDGES: A Center for Grieving Children in Tacoma. Based on that experience she went on to establish her work with young refugees and immigrants as founder and co-director of the Stories of Arrival: Refugee and Immigrant Youth Voices Poetry Project. Years of experience working with young people in major life transitions are reflected in Merna’s writing and teaching which focus on the necessity of bringing creative arts to settings for youth who have experienced trauma and loss. As a teaching artist, writer, conference and workshop presenter, Merna emphasizes the complex beauty and vulnerability that come forth when people are given the space for telling their stories. A recent mentor for the Afghan Women’s writing project she is honored to help Afghani women find and express their voices.
Merna also teaches Creative Writing, Poetry and Humanities for the University of WA, Tacoma including a course titled Art in Time of War, which explores the consequences of war on civilians through the art, literature and poetry created about and by young people living through violent conflict and forced migrations.
As a longtime passionate organic gardener and cook, Merna is honored to work with young refugees and immigrants and witness their thoughtful connections to the food and gardens of their homelands and their deep sense of knowing the importance of care-taking the earth and each other.