The Movie: http://www.freedomwriters.com/
About Erin Gruwell
Nothing could have prepared
Erin Gruwell for her first day of teaching at Wilson High School in Long Beach,
Calif. A recent college graduate, Erin landed her first job in Room 203, only
to discover many of her students had been written off by the education system
and deemed “unteachable.” As teenagers living in a racially divided urban
community, they were already hardened by first-hand exposure to gang violence,
juvenile detention, and drugs.
Enter Erin Gruwell. By
fostering an educational philosophy that valued and promoted diversity, she
transformed her students’ lives. She encouraged them to rethink rigid beliefs
about themselves and others, to reconsider daily decisions, and to rechart
their futures. With Erin’s steadfast support, her students shattered
stereotypes to become critical thinkers, aspiring college students, and
citizens for change. They even dubbed themselves the “Freedom Writers” — in
homage to civil rights activists “The Freedom Riders” — and published a book.
Inspired by Anne Frank and
Zlata Filipovic (who lived through war-torn Sarajevo), Erin and her students
captured their collective journey in The Freedom Writers Diary – How a
Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around
Them. Through poignant student entries and Erin’s narrative text, the book
chronicles their “eye-opening, spirit-raising odyssey against intolerance and
While Erin has been
credited with giving her students a “second chance,” it was perhaps she who
changed the most during her tenure at Wilson High School. She decided to
channel her classroom experiences toward a broader cause, and – today – her
impact as a “teacher” extends well beyond Room 203.
Currently, Erin serves as
president of the Freedom Writers Foundation. She raises awareness by traveling
nationwide to speak inside large corporations, government institutions, and
community associations. But Erin’s capacity to convert apathy to action matters
most at schools and juvenile halls, where any observer can watch the
expressions of troubled teens shift from guarded cynicism to unabashed
Erin and her students have
appeared on numerous television shows, including Oprah, The Rosie
O’Donnell Show, Prime Time Live with Connie Chung, Barbara
Walters’ The View, Good Morning America, and CSPAN’s Book TV.
Her class has been featured on National Public Radio and in national newspapers
and People magazine. Paramount Pictures released "Freedom
Writers" in January 2007, a film based on this remarkable
story featuring Hilary Swank as Erin.
Erin is a graduate of the
University of California, Irvine, where she received the Lauds and Laurels
Distinguished Alumni Award. She earned her Master’s Degree and teaching
credentials from California State University, Long Beach, where she was honored
as Distinguished Alumna by the School of Education.