The Telling Room: Helping immigrant teens tell their stories

Full Frame

The Telling Room International students attend The Telling Room’s unique after-school program.

The state of Maine, historically, is known as a majority white state. But Portland, the state’s largest city, is home to resettlement communities for families across the globe.

As the city’s demographics shift, one tiny non-profit arts group, The Telling Room, is reaching out to help immigrant and refugee teens assimilate into their new communities. The group also helps people in the community gain a better understanding of the journeys that have brought them to Maine.

The after-school program gives international high school students a place to practice their English and share their personal stories through writing.

“So once we get the kids excited about telling a story, and we start getting it out on paper, then the mentors are asking them to consider how could you make this more vivid, or how can you slow this down and really bring your reader into the moment, what techniques do you have to use,” explained The Telling Room Executive Director Heather Davis.

The Telling Room: Helping immigrant teens tell their stories

The Telling Room: Helping immigrant teens tell their stories

The after-school program, The Telling Room, gives international high school students a place to practice their English and share their personal stories through writing.


High school senior Salim Salim was born in Mosul, Iraq. In 2010, he and his family came to the United States. He says having a safe place to share his story is what helped him make a successful transition to his new life as an American.

“These stories have so much value and giving the minorities a voice in the community. That’s what The Telling Room is all about.”

In this week’s Close Up, Full Frame takes a look at this unique educational program and the impact it’s having, not only on the lives of students, but also bringing tolerance to a community.